A blog for Christian men "going their own way."

Monday, December 1, 2008

It's On Amazon

Back in June, Triton said the following about Debbie Maken, her followers, and the Marriage Mandate Movement:
I think the luster is finally wearing off of this silly movement. The Captain hasn't posted since mid-April, and Maken seems to have given up on serious debate, preferring instead to simply insult contrary commenters and pimp her book. I can almost hear the clock ticking on this dying fad, counting down the seconds 'til it joins the ranks of Madballs and Garbage Pail Kids as Things Better Left Uninvented.
Oh, if it were only so, my friend. But alas, as I told you even then ...
I don't think we are out of the woods on this one yet, Triton. I fear that a certain school of thought put forth their feelers with Debbie Maken's book. They got slapped back, but the retreat is temporary. The shadow of the Necromancer has just gone back to the Dark Tower to plot something else. There are plenty of voices out there among religious conservatives that believe a man's duty is to be a Stoic, neo-chivalrous, beast of burden for a feminized, consumeristic culture. Albert Mohler, and others still roam at large, peddling their "Real men do xyz" garbage to a largely female audience of desperate singletons. Mohler sits on CBMW and I notice an old article extolling singleness suddenly goes missing while the Shame-the-Man articles get published on the blog there.

Religious men can't afford to sit out this one. They are being ostracized in our churches. I feel like the lone prophet on my blog, wondering where my fellow 7,000 compadres are at. We need to speak out--in cyberspace on blogs, forums, etc. and in real life. If men don't, then some really stupid anti-male nonsense will get mainstreamed in our "conservative" faith communities. Maken was a wake up call for religious men. Will they sleep on?
Do I exaggerate in saying what I do? Nah. Remember the movie Fireproof? I finally saw it a few weeks ago in the theatre. I admit that it was good for the most part. Amir rightfully complained about the latent headship theology in the plot. But, dear readers, headship theology is not only thing that is disturbing about the ever-so-popular Fireproof Franchise. Yoda says, "If to this link you go, only pain will you find."

The Marriage Mandate nonsense has been mainstreamed. It's only fitting that an answer to it has finally hit Amazon. It is my hope that the disciples of Maken who go there to find their precious tome will see the ensign of doom.


85 comments:

Triton said...

"Marriage downloads compliments of Focus on the Family"

It seems in addition to Al Mohler, James Dobson has also picked up the torch for Debbie Maken and Captain Senseless.

At least your book is on Amazon taking advantage of the power of search engines.

Amir Larijani said...

Oh, come on Anakin, you Nancy boy! Methinks thou doth protest too much.

It's just a worst-case scenario. :::snickering:::

Gawsh, I fell over laughing when I saw that link. You forgot about this link, also from the same site.

Seriously, yeah...this really sucks. What bothers me is the duplicity of Boundless in this.

At least with Debbie Maken, you know where she stands. She makes no bones about it. I don't like it, but she flat-out tells you what's on her mind. PC and myself got her to melt down on Boundless.

Heck, Motte Brown even shut down the discussion when I demanded that Ted & Co. tell us where they stand on this matter.

And that's the thing: when you pin down guys like Ted, they'll hide behind the disclaimer that Maken's views don't necessarily represent theirs. On the other hand, I find it laughable that their parent company--FotF--provides links for Maken's book without providing a more reasonably-written book on the subject, like Kiesling's Where Have All The Good Men Gone.

(The title in the latter case is misleading, as, once you get past the first chapter, she's extremely even-handed. She was also quite pleasant to converse with.)

Trouble is, what they say has a great bearing on what gets taught in seminaries, preached from pulpits, taught in classrooms, and counseled to engaged and struggling couples.

Fireproof had many good qualities, but the overemphasis on the husband's depravity--minimizing that of the wife--was damnable.

As I said before, Debbie Maken--by herself--would be a "worst case scenario".

But when you pile on Southern Seminary President Al Mohler, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, counselor and author Steve Farrar, most of the Boundless crew, the producers of Fireproof, Promise Keepers, you have a very large segment of evangelical leadership--that carries a very large degree of influence on current and developing ministers and counselors--promoting an insidious doctrine that will only breed more hostility in the Church.

Many women may read those books and watch the movies--even drink the Kool-Aid--and feel better about themselves. Trouble is, these media are more likely to keep women single, keep men out of church, drive men from the church, and promote more--not less--Biblical unity.

Against that backdrop, the other side of the story needs to be told. After all, there is a very large statistical and economic body of evidence that is the 9,000-pound elephant in the room, and that elephant is crapping all over the floor.

Christina said...

I think they'll figure out the lack of balance sooner or later.

Probably later.

But I notice an overwhelming fear in chastising women in the church. I don't know why, but it seems women are much more willing to raise hell at one word against them without thinking reasonably about it first.

We were studying Ephesians 5 in church one sunday at the beginning of the year. I found it hilarious - and ginormously disappointing - at how EASY going he was on the whole female submission thing. It was the sole topic of the sermon, but he was soooo pathetically wishy-washy on it I wanted to scream.

And he even prefaced the stupid sermon with not being able to preach what sounded good to us, but what is biblically true. And if that meant losing members, so be it. But he never said anything worth while. He avoided anything that made you think or got you to feel chastised. And I swear, there are enough women out there who will feel chastised to the point of defiance when they hear a GOOD sermon on female submission.

Amir Larijani said...

Christina: I think the problem is that many preachers make the mistake of preaching one OR the other. It's like when one gets preached, it's done in a vacuum.

Paul doesn't do it that way in Ephesians 5: he hits both sides, within a couple verses. He doesn't dedicate one sermon about male headship, or one sermon about wifely submission.

He hits both together.

Christina said...

Amir,

So why is that so hard to grasp?

What political ties do we, as the church have, that justifies tiptoeing around one and not the other?

There's a woman who's been commenting on EW's blog lately called Coffee Catholic. She has a post that's a piece of a letter the Pope wrote to the Catholic congregation.

I think I'm going to convert to catholicism. You should check it out. it was frieken awesome.

Christina said...

link -
http://coffeecatholic.blogspot.com/2008/11/letter-to-bishops-of-catholic-church-on.html#links

Amir Larijani said...

Christina: I can sort of understand why Baptists would be under pressure to toe the line. A Baptist minister, after all, is almost always one sermon away from getting fired, as Baptist churches--being autonomous--have that latitude.

On the other hand, I don't understand why PCA or Episcopalian ministers would be under that degree of pressure.

I think a lot of it comes from the following factors:

(a) what gets taught at seminaries. This is where leaders like Mohler can be quite damaging, as their words carry substantial weight in the world of Christian academia. Make no mistake: he's a mover and shaker in that arena.

Pastoral counseling professors, preaching professors, "Church Growth and Evangelism" professors--even at the conservative Bible schools and seminaries--are drinking, and passing, the Kool-Aid. It is impossible to be a ministerial student and not get impacted by that.

(b) the inherent desire to "get along". Whenever a pastor says "I just preach it like it is", that's a tacit admission that he cares what other people think.

The only time Jesus said anything like that was--after handing down some severe teachings with respect to divorce and remarriage--his Disciples said, "It is then better for a man not to marry."

That's when Jesus delivered a knockout punch: some are eunuchs by birth, some where made eunuchs by men, and others are eunuchs for the Kingdom of God. (In this case, "eunuch" is merely a euphemism referring to one who remains unmarried.)

In other words, Jesus effectively said, "Can't stand the heat? Don't get in the kitchen!"

He certainly didn't seek to get along, or play "touchy-feely". In fact, what He said implied guilt even on the party that was wronged. That drives conservatives and liberals up the wall to this day.

Christina said...

I guess I just lucked out by not growing up in churches that made children's truth (kinda like children's tylenol: chewable and easy to swallow).

And now I'm stuck trying to find churches similar to that in a much larger town (ergo, a bit more liberal).

Its kinda frustrating.

catwoman said...

Where's Capt. Sensible??

Married, with a baby on the way.

Yup. You heard it from me.

Amir Larijani said...

Well, Christina, I would not convert to Catholicism. Even with many of its strengths--and it has several--it has some very serious drawbacks.

Like praying to Mary, Transubstantiation, the role of the believer with respect to Scripture, Papal infallibility, denying priests and nuns the right to marry, among other things.

Triton said...

Where's Capt. Sensible??

Married, with a baby on the way.

Yup. You heard it from me.


That's a juicy little plum, Catwoman. Give us some details, if you have any. ;)

Gerv said...

With the possible exception of the "by the mid-twenties" bit, what exactly is wrong with this PDF?

Gerv

catwoman said...

"That's a juicy little plum, Catwoman. Give us some details, if you have any. ;)"

A bride last spring (think to when she "disappeared"), a mum next spring.

Other than that, you can ask me all the questions you want...and I won't tell you a thing!

Amir Larijani said...

Gerv: The bullet points she lists there, in and of themselves, are not bad at all. (The larger issue is the screed in between the pages of her book.)

I'd even suggest that her statement regarding the mid-20s is true as a general rule--it gets tougher to find a mate after that period, as most are taken by then--provided that one does not enforce it as if it is a Biblical mandate.

The only thing I'd change is this: while part of this is on the parents, the larger Christian Body needs to take a lesson from their Jewish friends, regarding networking.

Due to demographic factors associated with education and employment, many singles are finding themselves in areas they never planned on being, among people they don't have childhood ties and who don't know them, among members of a Body who they don't know.

These singles are being forced into unconventional ways to find a spouse, and those methods have not been proven to be successful on a grand scale.

A better network, with parents and churches working together, would probably help resolve much of the protracted singleness issue. Jews have been doing this for milennia, and they are not the most resilient people in the world by accident.

On her third point, while it is a valid one, I'd hesitate to use the word "fear" on a general scale. I've long pointed out that men are hardly quaking in their boots with fear on this.

That men and women are engaging in more risk aversion is perfectly rational, given the social and demographic landscape they face that they would not have had to face 40 years ago.

The likelihood and cost of divorce has gone up for both parties, and, as singles get older, they end up with more to lose if a marriage goes bad.

The flip side of that is the likelihood of finding a good mate continues to slide as one gets older, so--if you wish to marry--some risk tolerance is necessary.

Gerv said...

Amir: it seems I was fooled by the link text "only pain you will find" into thinking that there was a great deal you guys disapproved of in the linked document. Clearly, there was a misunderstanding somewhere.

On an unrelated point, you said:

"The likelihood and cost of divorce has gone up for both parties"

Well, if the church wants to sort this problem out, it could start by kicking some butt on this issue. The likelihood of divorce for Christian couples should be tiny, and if it isn't, the church should be working hard to make it so.

Amir Larijani said...

Gerv says: Well, if the church wants to sort this problem out, it could start by kicking some butt on this issue. The likelihood of divorce for Christian couples should be tiny, and if it isn't, the church should be working hard to make it so.

No argument here. The good news is that the divorce rate--for couples who are regular attenders of church--is lower than the national average. The bad news is that the risk is not a tiny one.

Is the Church trying to address it? Yes, but I'd say the response has been many decades late and billions of proverbial dollars short.

That is a ramification of "no-fault" divorce. While one can say that--in theory, it should have little effect on the Church, which expects couples to get and stay married--the sad reality is that it has impacted the Church.

And addressing the issue requires several fronts:

(1) Dealing with young people as they approach adulthood and marriageability

(2) Dealing with couples seeking to marry

(3) Dealing with couples who are married, encouraging them to grow spiritually

(4) Dealing with couples who are struggling

(5) Dealing with people who were divorced before becoming Christians

(6) Dealing with divorcees seeking to remarry.

(7) Working with lawmakers and policymakers to address the unintended consequences of "no-fault" divorce.

Amir Larijani said...

Gerv says: it seems I was fooled by the link text "only pain you will find" into thinking that there was a great deal you guys disapproved of in the linked document. Clearly, there was a misunderstanding somewhere.

The larger issue is Maken's book.

The bullet points are one thing; the contents of her book--and FotF's promotion of her book in spite of the strong anti-male bias in it--are a wholly different matter.

Gerv said...

So there's two ways you could have taken that document. Either the charitable:

"Wow, something balanced from Debbie Maken. How great that is to see."

or:

"Clearly nothing that woman says is ever going to be sense."

If there's nothing (or very little) wrong with the linked document, then I think Anakin is getting dangerously close to playing the man (as it were) and not the ball. And argumentum ad hominem is not something Christians should do, IMO.

Amir Larijani said...

Gerv: If you've been following the larger discussion, you'd know that issue here is not so much the bullet points, but rather:

(a) the promotion of Maken's book by the makers of a movie that overplays the husband's depravity and minimizes the wife's,

and

(b) the fact that FotF, the parent company of Boundless, is providing the link to the book, even though the folks at Boundless--when cornered on the matter of Maken's anti-male screeds--tend to duck the issue.

Having read the book myself, you left out a third possible response to the bullet points: an otherwise reasonable prop for a book that is itself anything but even-handed.

Anakin Niceguy said...

Gerv,

Debbie Maken's book is downright horrible. The promotion of that book is what I take issue with. Like a stopped clock, it may be occasionally correct, but it doesn't change the fact that it is still broken.

Kevin said...

When you have time, please email (kuyakevin at gmail) and tell me about the process of publishing this book. I'd like to know how you went about this.

Gerv said...

I read the book, and didn't find it particularly offensive to men. Do you have a post somewhere summarizing your objections? Are they exegetical or other?

Gerv

Triton said...

Do you have a post somewhere summarizing your objections?

Yeah, you could say that. Try here, Gerv.

Click on the June 2006 archives link, then scroll to the bottom and work your way up. When you finish with June, go to the next month, and continue working your way chronologically forward through the archives.

Triton said...

Or, of course, you could just download Anakin's book.

Gerv said...

Triton: I did use the word "summarizing" intentionally. If Debbie Maken can summarize her viewpoint on a side of paper (the PDF we were discussing originally), I'm sure Anakin can as well.

Yes, I could also download the book. When I get through the <measures> 11.25 inches of books on my "to read" pile, I'll certainly consider it. But in the mean time, a summary would be helpful.

Gerv

Kevin in Manila said...

Gerv,
I wrote a review on her book several months ago. I'll try to re-post it some day on singlechristian.org.

But here is an excerpt from my review:

As I read this book, I wrote “M-B” (short for “man-bashing”) in the margins of several pages. Consider a few of these quotes:

“Most of the men I observed on the dating scene were essentially boys in men’s clothing.”

“Of course, if you’re a single woman but are not called to singleness, it’s usually not your fault.”

“Most single Christian women today are not at fault for having to endure protracted singleness.”

“The average Christian single woman isn’t at fault here.”

“Ultimately there are no sound reasons or legitimate excuses why men—especially Christian men—are not getting married.”

“Pointing to feminists and easy sex is a convenient distraction from the real problem concerning the formation of Christian marriages."


I read Maken's book with a pretty open mind. I was, in fact, looking forward to a new point of few. I think she made a few good points. But the man-bashing eventually got to me, and it was the most disappointing aspect of her book.

Amir Larijani said...

Kevin: Those quotes are the tip of the iceberg.

wombatty said...

At root, Maken’s problem is pompous, self-righteous pride (on behalf of herself and all woman-kind). Her book and blog (including the blog comments section) overflow with sentiments that boil down to: Woman good, Man bad.

In Maken’s world, any and all problems or difficulties between the sexes are to be laid at the feet of men. Any problems that seem to be the fault of women are in fact nothing more than understandable female reactions to the lack of proper male leadership. So, again, it’s all men’s fault and women are held blameless.

It's hard not to recall the scene in As Good As It Gets:

Woman: How do you write women so well?

John Updike: I think of a man and I take away reason and accountability.

Or, to quote form Anakin’s Estrogelical Glossary, women are ‘asexual, angelic beings who like children and money. (many luxury vacations comes to mind).

Kevin in Manila said...

I know these are just a few quotes--but Gerv asked for a quick summary.

Gerv said...

Kevin: thanks for the quotes and the summary. A few thoughts:

Of the seven quotes you give, one and six blame men explicitly. But if Debbie Maken's point in the relevant section were, for example, that the church was not giving men and women help and advice in getting hitched, then the other five quotes would not necessarily be out of place. In other words, are you seeing man-bashing in places where there is none?

It's worth noting the difference between blame and responsibility. The blame for e.g. the aimlessness of an existing relationship may be with one party, the other party or both, but the responsibility to do something about it is IMO always the man's. We are called to leadership. Leaving aside whether Maken's book is unbalanced, a book which allocated responsibility for fixing the problem equally between both sexes would be wrong. When Maken is talking about men, is she allocating blame or responsibility? Perhaps she's done one when she should have done the other, I don't know. But let's not be so keen to get back on that we fall off the other side of the horse.

Another thought: If Debbie Maken is so down on men (as opposed to, perhaps, the behaviour of men she has observed) then why is she so keen to get women to marry them? Do you think she wants them to do it holding their noses?

But when it comes down to it, when I read the book quotes like the ones you list didn't bother me. Perhaps it was because I accepted that I was responsible, or perhaps it's because I didn't see myself in the picture she painted.

Triton said...

The blame for e.g. the aimlessness of an existing relationship may be with one party, the other party or both, but the responsibility to do something about it is IMO always the man's. We are called to leadership.

Gerv, Maken and her crowd don't really want male leadership, regardless of their claims to the contrary. A man can't lead those who are unwilling to follow, and all I've seen from the Marriage Mandate crowd is a lot of nagging and recrimination. Show me a woman who is willing to obey her husband, and I'll show you a man willing to lead her.

Another thought: If Debbie Maken is so down on men (as opposed to, perhaps, the behaviour of men she has observed) then why is she so keen to get women to marry them? Do you think she wants them to do it holding their noses?

Excellent question. I'll respond by quoting Maken herself. The following is a comment she left on her own blog in response to someone else's comment:


Just an FYI, my husband and I both changed each other for the better. He was quite the metrosexual, well read, well schooled, geo-politically inclined businessman when I met him, and some of his bourgeois tendencies rubbed off on me. It was I who changed on the social adeptness front, and I am so glad everytime we go to the Naples Ritz Carlton for weekend trips and take all of our many luxury vacations. And yes, if I could recommend to women elsewhere to follow my path and land a wonderful Indian Christian like my husband, I would gladly do it. Because guess what, my husband because of Indianness (which you think is synonymous with socially awkward behaviour), is actually brilliant enough to make money in very creative ways, so that I can be a stay at home mom in one of the most expensive zip codes in the country. (Figured out yet why jobs are floating away to India???; there are some major clues in here for you-- grow up, quit blaming others, get a real education with real earning potential, have a vision for success that is outside of the box of what either the church sells you (in its excuse of mediocrity for false piety) or what Wall Street/government sells you, get married and have children, so that the population increases and so does trade). Just remember, there is going to be another name for the socially awkward boy-- "boss."

Marriage and achieving it isn't supposed to be a fairy tale. (Yet another faulty assumption, you intellectual buffoon). It is a serious venture for those who have the maturity and internal fortitude to weather its storm and labor to make the "sweet honey of life." My road may not be the one traveled by many in the West, but it is one that actually achieves marriage to an "equally yoked" partner. I tried your serendipitous fairy tale route, and it got me redneck wannabes, poor men justifying their professions with spirituality, men with legitimate degress that didn't want to succeed in real careers but flirt with serial temporary employment, men with serious debt and money mismangement issues, men who were well below the par. So, anon, men have changed greatly in the last forty years. But I am sure that the Feminists and their inroads into churches made them all such unaccountable, unanchored, socially boring, late blooming bachelors.




Conclusion: For Debbie Maken, marriage is more of a corporate merger than anything else; it's all about the filthy lucre.

Since Maken wrote that comment, the phrase "many luxury vacations" has taken on a life of its own, and it even inspired a blog.

Gerv said...

Triton: as far as I can tell, the owner of that blog's response is to date/marry non-Christians, something which is both Biblically forbidden and practically deeply unwise.

But, given that there seems to be a lot of the "Forget that, what about this thing _you_ did!" in this discussion, I should also respond to that quote. Mrs Maken seems to have removed it from the original post, so may now be ashamed of what she said. I completely agree such a tone is entirely inappropriate, and I'd also have reservations about her points.

You said: "Show me a woman who is willing to obey her husband, and I'll show you a man willing to lead her."

Isn't that just doing exactly what you claim Mrs. Maken does, but the other way around? She is saying that if the men sorted themselves out, there'd be no problem with the women. You are saying that if the women sorted themselves out, there'd be no problem with the men.

Triton said...

Mrs Maken seems to have removed it from the original post, so may now be ashamed of what she said.

That's possible, Gerv, but I think it's more likely that her comment simply caused her to lose a little more face than she was comfortable with. She has consistently displayed a certain contempt for single men. For example, she wouldn't even give Farmer Tom the time of day until she found out he was married with kids.

Isn't that just doing exactly what you claim Mrs. Maken does, but the other way around?

If everything else were equal, then yes, my claim would be the same as hers. Everything else is definitely NOT equal, though.

The vast majority of divorces in this country are initiated by women, and most of those are of the no-fault variety. In other words, an awful lot of women simply don't commit to their marriages anymore.

Furthermore, the divorce courts are heavily stacked against men; it is the most inequitable institution in America. Millions of men have been emotionally and financially destroyed by divorce, and divorce that occurred too often for frivolous reasons on the woman's part; ignoring that reality, as the Marriage Mandaters are wont to do, is simply cruel. Trying to compare a man's willingness to marry with a woman's willingness to marry is an apples-and-oranges scenario due to the severely higher risks for men.

So, on the one hand, Debbie Maken and her ilk accuse men of failing to lead in a reality where doing so carries a huge risk. On the other hand, I accuse women of failing to submit in a reality where there is very little risk.

The current marriage crisis is one that has been manufactured by the government. Until the laws change to a more equitable system, marriage rates will continue to decline. And until women realize that, and do something about it, the law will not change for the better.

Gerv said...

If you have prayerfully decided that a woman is a suitable wife, and are planning to get married, divorce rates and divorce law should not even enter into your thinking. It wouldn't matter if divorce law said that the woman always gets everything. The machinations of secular law should not prevent us doing what we have prayerfully decided is right in the sight of God.

Really near the section in Matthew 5 where it says divorce is wrong (which is why all these evil women who marry good honest Christian men just to deny them sex and divorce them will answer to God), there's the following section:

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."

If you marry, and end up being taken for a ride in the divorce court by what turns out to be an ungodly women, so what? It's your own godliness you should be looking out for. Turn the other cheek. If you avoid marriage because you are afraid of losing your personal stuff, then you have dodgy views of a) marriage, b) personal stuff, and c) what to do when you are wronged.

(See my comment here for another example of where it seems that Anakin's argument is directly opposed to Scripture.)

Amir Larijani said...

Gerv says:

If you marry, and end up being taken for a ride in the divorce court by what turns out to be an ungodly women, so what? It's your own godliness you should be looking out for. Turn the other cheek.

That's all well and good after your cheek has been slapped.

On the other hand, fear ought not be confused with prudence, nor must lack of prudence be confused with faith.

(1) I'll give you an example of the latter: a mother of 3 who gets breast cancer, decides that the entire health care establishment is just out to make her sick, refuses all medical treatments for her cancer, insists on "natural cures only", because she has faith that God will heal her of cancer.

She died. Her kids must now wonder why they must trust in a God, in whom their mom trusted, who did not save her as she promised He would.

As for the former, when there are legitimate red flags that indicate she is not serious about the commitment to marriage, then it would be prudent to consider whether the risk is worth it.

Every man is not called to be Hosea.

If you avoid marriage because you are afraid of losing your personal stuff, then you have dodgy views of a) marriage, b) personal stuff, and c) what to do when you are wronged.

There's a huge difference between fear and prudence. I don't know any Christian man--outside the blogosphere--who "avoids" marriage at all, let alone for the reasons you are mentioning.

That men and women are exercising more prudence and risk-aversion in their choices is not tantamount to fear, either.

Keep in mind that the social frameworks that lent themselves to early marriage, are long gone.

In Biblical times, arranged marriages were commonplace. Even past American generations, men and women often married people with whom they grew up. Families knew each other. They went to the same churches, attended the same schools, parents worked in the same companies.

Even for people who went to college in past generations, it was a lot more common for men and women to find their mates in college. Women seeking the "MRS" degree were not frowned-upon as they are today.

Instead, today people are (a) more likely to (a) move often during their childhood, (b) switch churches multiple times, (c) not get married straight out of high school, (d) not find a mate in college, (e) end up working out of school in localities that they are not familiar, and (f) find themselves resorting to unconventional and untested means--online services--to find a mate, which are not proving successful on a grand scale.

On top of that, as we get older, we get more life experience, and--fairly or unfairly (sometimes a little of both)--we evaluate people in light of those experiences.

It is every man's job to determine--between himself and God--if that prudence has crossed the line into fear.

On the other hand, Maken--sadly--is (a) dismissive of those issues, (b) makes extreme judgments about people merely about their age and marital status, and (c) goes out of her way to justify all manners of male-bashing while minimizing the equal depravity of women in this dynamic.

It is the latter to which Anakin is bringing balance.

Amir Larijani said...

Gerv asks:
Isn't that just doing exactly what you claim Mrs. Maken does, but the other way around? She is saying that if the men sorted themselves out, there'd be no problem with the women. You are saying that if the women sorted themselves out, there'd be no problem with the men.

If Triton is wrong, then it is not nearly on the scale as Maken is wrong.

After all, while Triton does overstate in this case, he has not--to my knowledge--suggested that all the problems with men are attributable to women.

And yet Fireproof portrays the wife's depravity in exactly those terms, and Maken blames the issue of protracted singleness overwhelmingly on the men.

The issue of protracted singleness--even for men and women in difficult-to-marry brackets (social, physical, attractiveness issues), is a recent phenomenon that begs a larger explanation.

Maken blames this almost exclusively on the men, and does so from anecdotal rather than statistical bases.

Some authors--such as A.J. Kiesling--provide evenhanded assessments. Kiesling's study is not a perfect one. She does, however, give voice to both sides and does not engage in one-sided bashing. She has caught no flack here or on my blog space.

On the other hand, Maken is abjectly dismissive of all legitimate opposition, and provides an assessment that is nothing more than one-sided kvetching against the men based on her own experiences.

She makes the logical mistake of imputing the particular on the general.

Fact is, on that basis, my particular experiences--and Anakin's and SXM's and Triton's particular experiences--are as logically valid as hers.

Would it, then, be right for me to write a book about protracted singleness, claiming that Christian men are going single solely because the women in the Church are out marrying nonbelievers? I have at least as many anecdotal cases for that POV as Maken has for her POV.

Of course it would be wrong, Gerv, as speaking to the general requires more research and analysis, for reasons I have articulated on this blog and mine.

At the end of the day, Gerv, I think it's long past time that you give it up and read the book for yourself. Then you will be in a position to discuss the issue with better information.

So far, all you are doing is arguing about arguments within the book, arguing solely from the bullet-points in a sales promotion. That's worse than trying to pass an exam based on reading Clif-notes.

In fact, not knowing anything else, I'd suspect that you are probably just Gortexgrrl/KT/Catwoman/Finn, just operating under a different monicker.

Triton said...

Well, Gerv, I think you're wrong on a few counts.

If you have prayerfully decided that a woman is a suitable wife, and are planning to get married, divorce rates and divorce law should not even enter into your thinking.

I've prayerfully decided a number of things throughout my life. The fact that I thought I was doing God's will did not protect me from the real-world consequences of my decisions.

This is called "reality", Gerv, and it has been known to waylay the best-laid plans of mice and men.

Really near the section in Matthew 5 where it says divorce is wrong

Divorce is not wrong. Except for cases of unfaithfulness, it is wrong to divorce and remarry.

Turn the other cheek.

Christians are not required to be masochists. We are not compelled to actively seek our own destruction. If we were, then Jesus would not have told us to be as wise as serpents. After all, what use is wisdom if we're just going to imprudently follow our more dangerous instincts for every decision?

After all, while Triton does overstate in this case

Ha! That's just your opinion, my Asian friend. ;)

he has not--to my knowledge--suggested that all the problems with men are attributable to women

Of course not. I'm well aware, as I'm sure we all are, of the numerous faults of men. Frankly, I think ALL people are at least a little despicable, including myself.

But the discussions in mainstream circles are definitely tilted for one sex and against the other. I'm just trying to bring back a little balance.

Gerv said...

Prudence would be not marrying a woman because you think she might divorce you. That's fine. What I'm arguing against is not marrying a women you would otherwise marry because of the current situation of the divorce law. In other words, feel free to factor in the character of the woman. But you should not factor in the state of the law - which, based on previous comments, you are doing. ("The current marriage crisis is one that has been manufactured by the government. Until the laws change to a more equitable system, marriage rates will continue to decline.")

As I was reading your list of issues, I was thinking "yes, and they are all addressed in Debbie Maken's book", so I was somewhat surprised to see you claim that she ignored them all. Perhaps we were reading different books, or perhaps my memory is faulty.

Let me be clear here: my major point is not to defend Debbie Maken's particular views, it is to say that IMO the side of the argument represented by this blog has been using unbiblical arguments in an unbiblical tone. There may be good Biblical arguments to deploy but, if so, you need to deploy them, not complain about divorce law or make ad hominem attacks.

Case in point:

At the end of the day, Gerv, I think it's long past time that you give it up and read the book for yourself. Then you will be in a position to discuss the issue with better information.

So far, all you are doing is arguing about arguments within the book, arguing solely from the bullet-points in a sales promotion. That's worse than trying to pass an exam based on reading Clif-notes.


Ooh, a Farmer Tom moment. I have read the book, at least twice. I own a copy. It was reading it, in fact, which brought be in a roundabout way to this blog. Do I get 'the time of day' now? :-)

In fact, not knowing anything else, I'd suspect that you are probably just Gortexgrrl/KT/Catwoman/Finn, just operating under a different monicker.

Not knowing anything else, indeed. This is me; I don't hide my identity online behind pseudonymity. If you want me to change those web pages to prove I have control of them, I will. Perhaps an apology?

Triton said: Divorce is not wrong. Except for cases of unfaithfulness, it is wrong to divorce and remarry.

With respect, which Bible are you reading? 1 Cor 7:10-11, not to mention Jesus' comments on the matter. Separation is discouraged but permissible. Divorce, except in the case of unfaithfulness or unbelieving partner desertion, is a sin.

Triton said...

But you should not factor in the state of the law - which, based on previous comments, you are doing.

Why not?

With respect, which Bible are you reading? 1 Cor 7:10-11, not to mention Jesus' comments on the matter. Separation is discouraged but permissible. Divorce, except in the case of unfaithfulness or unbelieving partner desertion, is a sin.

Paul was responding to Christians who were contemplating divorce because they thought marriage was incompatible with Christianity or Christian missionary work. This passage says nothing about the morality of divorce in the general sense.

Most denominations of Christianity agree with me on this, by the way. As far as I know, only the Roman Catholics prohibit divorce, and they only do it in the nominal sense anyway, often granting annulments that are the practical equivalent of divorce.

Amir Larijani said...

Gerv:

(1) Given that you have read much on this blog, I presume you are aware of the number of "Anonymous" bloggers we have, as well as other bloggers who suffer from an online case of multiple personality disorder.

Ergo, my initial skepticism of your identity--before your providing the link--was quite rational. Perhaps you can apologize for the confusion you created...

(2) You came to this thread asking about the book, on the basis of the bullet points in the Fireproof ad.

If you have done this--feigning ignorance--while having read the book twice, then why would it not be rational to conclude that you are just playing the baiting game?

(3) Any reasonable discussion of the marital landscape requires a discussion of divorce law, as "no fault divorce" has been the biggest contributor to the overall divorce rate, which has caused men and women to engage in substantially more risk-aversion than they would have 40 years ago.

That's not a trivial matter. As I said, prudence is not to be confused with fear, nor is a lack of prudence to be confused with faith.

Apart from a specific Divine directive, when a man (or woman) sees obvious red flags, then it is an act of prudence to settle the matter before the wedding, rather than take blind faith that their mate will change for the better afterward.

Sticking your head in the sand is not necessarily an act of faith, and can actually be an act of fear cross-dressed as faith.

Triton: I disagree. God hates divorce. God said that through the prophet Malachi. Ergo, the default position is that divorce is fundamentally wrong. What God has joined together, let no man put asunder...

As for remarriage, Jesus' teachings should give EVERYONE pause: the default position on remarriage is that it is adultery.

Gerv said...

Amir: this is the first time I've ever been asked to apologise for "creating confusion" by posting on a blog under my own real name. If you Google for "Gerv", I'm 8 of the top 10 hits. I'm hardly difficult to identify or find.

If you simply reread the comments, you'll find that "You came to this thread asking about the book, on the basis of the bullet points in the Fireproof ad" is simply incorrect. I didn't start by asking about the book - the first time I mention the book is in my fourth comment, and the first thing I say about it is that, er, I've read it. Which makes it all the more surprising that you thought that I hadn't. I haven't been hiding anything, or "feigning ignorance" either.

The reason I started commenting was to suggest that Anakin was being uncharitable in his assessment of this particular statement by Debbie Maken. And I still think that's true. "But look at this nasty thing over here she did once" is simply irrelevant misdirection. If someone says something, you assess it on the basis of what they said, not who they are.

You don't seem to have engaged with the distinction I made between prudence (not marrying a women you think might divorce you, for character reasons) and what I suggest is wrong (ie. not marrying a women you otherwise would, because of the current nature of divorce law). There are plenty of places in Scripture where it talks about the characteristics of a good wife. There is nowhere where it says "but if the legal climate is unfavourable, you may want to hold back to make sure you get to keep all your stuff".

This is not "sticking your head in the sand", it's going in to a marriage committed 100% to it being "till death do us part", and therefore not taking any account of what may happen if, through no fault of yours, it's not.

A related example: how could you say to your wife with a straight face that you were 100% committed until "till death do us part" if you made her sign a pre-nup that specifies "_If_ we divorce, then..."? Not getting married at all because of the risk that, if you do, you'll get taken for 50% of your assets shows a similar lack of commitment to marriage being lifelong.

Why are you so worried about your assets anyway? They all belong to God, not to you. If you find what, to the best of your knowledge, is a godly woman and marry her, and she turns rogue and divorces you and cleans you out so you're on the street penniless, then "the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; let the name of the Lord be praised."

I'm glad to hear you affirm Jesus' teaching on the general impermissibility of divorce, though. :-)

Amir Larijani said...

Gerv:

(1) I clicked on your name, and came up with a dead Blogger profile. That led me to believe that you might be one of the multiple personality types just playing the baiting game. (We've had that problem on this blog space.)

You have my apologies.

(2) With respect to prudence, I'd say we are saying the same thing here. Please don't confuse me for a "marriage striker". I'm not in that camp.

All I'm saying is that men and women, due to a number of factors, are engaging in more risk-aversion. Much of that is prudence, while some of it is fear.

We would be in agreement that fear-based risk aversion is un-Biblical.

(3) Where do you get the idea that I am "worried" about my assets? All I have said is that when one sees red flags, one is prudent to deal with those matters before the wedding.

This is not necessarily about material things. It could be an addiction. It could be an anger management issue. It could be some other stability or maturity problem. It could be a matter that some pastoral counseling could remedy, or it could be a matter that requires more intervention.

But when I say "prudence" or "risk aversion", please don't get the idea that I am speaking about finances (even though those are terms frequently used in financial circles).

For many people, prudence can involve a financial matter. I'm speaking, however, in terms of Biblical prudence, which encompasses far more than financial matters.

Triton said...

God hates divorce.

And yet he allows it anyway because of the hardness of our hearts. Come on, Amir; you know that! There's a big difference between discouraging something and banning it outright.

Is there any kind of denomination or sect that completely prohibits divorce? I'm not aware of any. As far as I can tell, they all allow for an escape clause, whether it's called divorce or annulment.

Why are you so worried about your assets anyway?

Assets put food on the table. And it's not just assets, Gerv; there are often children involved. We're talking about tearing families apart and contributing to a variety of social ills in the form of improperly-raised teenagers.

And many men simply can't handle the emotional devastation of divorce, preferring suicide instead.

Divorce isn't just about "stuff"; it's about having one's life torn asunder.

If you find what, to the best of your knowledge, is a godly woman and marry her, and she turns rogue and divorces you and cleans you out so you're on the street penniless, then "the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; let the name of the Lord be praised."

If that's your choice, Gerv, then knock yourself out. I prefer to learn from the mistakes of others so that I don't repeat them.

Gerv said...

We would be in agreement that fear-based risk aversion is un-Biblical.

Wonderful :-) For my part, I agree that I didn't take sufficient care to distinguish your position from that of others, and I apologise if I was attributing to you things that you weren't actually saying. :-)

Triton: "completely prohibits divorce" is a strawman, because the Bible clearly doesn't completely prohibit divorce. But that's very different from saying that anyone can rightly divorce. The available grounds are marital unfaithfulness (Matt 19:19, Matt 5:32) and desertion by an unbelieving partner (1 Cor 7:15). [There is the point that Jesus is quoted as giving the marital unfaithfulness exception in Matthew, but not in Mark and Luke. But removing that exception would only strengthen my case.]

Other than that, "Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." I personally think annulment is a terrible thing, because (whatever name they call it) it's divorce, and you can get one based on your mental state or level of knowledge at the time of the marriage, something known only to you. Even time and having children doesn't change that. Which means that no Catholic couple has any security in their marriage at all.

I agree that some Protestant denominations have an unbiblical view of divorce. All I can say is that a) my church doesn't, and b) we should look at scripture and not at the practice of particular churches.

I'd like to see your exegetical support for the suggestion that Paul's prohibition in Corinthians was only because they thought marriage was incompatible with missionary work.

And it's not just assets, Gerv; there are often children involved.

Think of the children!

Your original paragraphs about the inequality of divorce law focussed on the financial. And it's that I'm arguing against. I am not saying that divorce is an easy or simple thing, or that it doesn't cause massive heartbreak. I am saying that the increased risk to your assets during a divorce is not a valid ground for not marrying. I'll say it again: if you think the woman might divorce you, don't marry her, fine. If you would otherwise marry her but won't because the divorce law is 'skewed', that's wrong.

Amir Larijani said...

Triton: No dice.

(a) God said, "I hate divorce" in the OT, and specifically castigated the post-exilic Jews for their engagement in it.

(b) Jesus Himself said, "What God has put together, let no man put asunder." He also said that a man who divorces his wife causes her to commit adultery.

The default position is that divorce is fundamentally wrong. There may be times where it is a lesser evil, but let's make no mistake: it is still evil.

That God permitted it--and provided an orderly process in the Law for its practice--does not mean that God condoned it.

After all, marriage is a covenant rooted in Creation. Jesus framed it in those terms.

In fact, when his Disciples exclaimed, "Then it is better for a man not to marry", Jesus' response--the 3 types of "eunuchs"--was tantamount to, "If you can't stand the heat, then don't get in the kitchen!"

Triton said...

"completely prohibits divorce" is a strawman, because the Bible clearly doesn't completely prohibit divorce.

It's not a strawman, it's precisely what you claimed. Here's your exact quote:

the section in Matthew 5 where it says divorce is wrong

You didn't qualify this in any way; you just left it as "divorce is wrong".

In any event, I'm glad you now admit that divorce is acceptable in some circumstances.

But that's very different from saying that anyone can rightly divorce. The available grounds are marital unfaithfulness (Matt 19:19, Matt 5:32) and desertion by an unbelieving partner (1 Cor 7:15). [There is the point that Jesus is quoted as giving the marital unfaithfulness exception in Matthew, but not in Mark and Luke. But removing that exception would only strengthen my case.]

I've already discussed Matt. 5 and how it pertains to divorce and remarriage (you can't have adultery without sexual behaviour, after all. A woman who gets divorced and then joins a convent is hardly an adultress). But what does Matt. 19:19 have to do with anything? That verse has nothing to do with marriage or divorce whatsoever.

As for 1 Cor. 7:15, again, we're talking about Paul responding to questions that have to do with the birth of a new religion. The new Christians weren't sure if marriage and Christianity were compatible or not. In this case, you have a married couple composed of two non-Christians, then one of them becomes a Christian and the other does not. They are now unequally yoked, so the unbeliever is allowed to depart.

The verse in question does not apply to two people who were both Christians before they married.

I agree that some Protestant denominations have an unbiblical view of divorce. All I can say is that a) my church doesn't, and b) we should look at scripture and not at the practice of particular churches.

What sort of church do you attend? And how does it punish those who get divorced?

I'd like to see your exegetical support for the suggestion that Paul's prohibition in Corinthians was only because they thought marriage was incompatible with missionary work.

Like I said before, Paul was responding to Christians who had written him letters wanting to know what they should do. Christianity was a new thing, and the new Christians were unsure of the proper procedures of Christian living (not just missionary work, but Christian living in general). Re-read the very first verse of that chapter:

"Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me..."

Paul is obviously responding to specific questions.

Your original paragraphs about the inequality of divorce law focussed on the financial. And it's that I'm arguing against. I am not saying that divorce is an easy or simple thing, or that it doesn't cause massive heartbreak. I am saying that the increased risk to your assets during a divorce is not a valid ground for not marrying.

Fine. We'll ignore the social impact for now (though it is enormous) and just focus on property.

The Bible says "Thou shalt not steal". This is one of the Ten Commandments, so that means it's pretty important. Jesus would later reiterate this commandment in Matt. 19:17-19. And yet, you seem pretty cavalier about theft so long as it is promulgated by the state in the form of divorce court.

I believe your attitude towards property is unjust.

If you would otherwise marry her but won't because the divorce law is 'skewed', that's wrong.

No, I wouldn't marry her because the divorce law has made HER untrustworthy. Women who might otherwise make suitable spouses have been made unsuitable.

You don't seem to understand the fact that women change their minds. A woman might be all gung-ho about her marriage one day, then file for divorce the next without any warning. They are fickle creatures, and there is no way to predict what they might do.

Throw in the fact that the biased divorce system makes that option very tempting for women to pursue, and you've got yourself a recipe for disaster.

(a) God said, "I hate divorce" in the OT, and specifically castigated the post-exilic Jews for their engagement in it.

I'm well aware of the fact that divorce is not ideal. That has nothing to do with whether or not it's necessary.

That God permitted it--and provided an orderly process in the Law for its practice--does not mean that God condoned it.

That statement is self-contradictory. The last part should instead read "does not mean that God likes it".

"If you can't stand the heat, then don't get in the kitchen!"

That's the problem, Amir; Gerv is trying to force me into the kitchen anyway. And once in, he won't let me out.

I simply refuse to be a slave to another human being.

Finally, I would add that there is a distinction that has been lost in this discussion. That is the distinction between the conditions by which one can divorce and the conditions by which one can both divorce and remarry. There is a wider latitude for those who only divorce than there is for those who divorce and remarry. A man can divorce if he simply finds some "indecency" in his wife, but he can't remarry unless the indecency rises to the level of unfaithfulness.

In the future, let's try to be more specific about which scenario we're talking about.

Gerv said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gerv said...

You didn't qualify this in any way; you just left it as "divorce is wrong".

Oh, for goodness sake. Do you also believe the Bible is flawed because Luke 16:18 and Matthew 5:32 are not word-for-word the same? Clearly, the exact grounds under which divorce is permissible were not the focus of my argument at that point, therefore I did exactly what Jesus or Luke did which resulted in that discrepancy. If it's good enough for what Luke wrote, it's good enough for me.

But what does Matt. 19:19 have to do with anything? That verse has nothing to do with marriage or divorce whatsoever.

You are quite right; it's a typo for Matthew 19:9, as a quick search for "divorce" in that chapter or in Matthew would show.

The verse in question [1 Cor. 7:15] does not apply to two people who were both Christians before they married.

Indeed not. So there are even fewer legitimate grounds for divorce for Christian couples than for mixed couples.

What sort of church do you attend? And how does it punish those who get divorced?

I attend Enfield Evangelical Free Church. I don't know what would happen if a couple divorced; it's never happened in the seven years I've been there. A couple recently got married at least one of whom was previously divorced; the church did an investigation and informed the church membership that they had found that the divorce(s?) were permitted, and announced this to the membership, without giving full gory details.

I know that the church has refused to marry a Christian and a non-Christian in the past.

Paul is obviously responding to specific questions.

But it is not logical to conclude from that that his answers only had local applicability. You can answer a specific question with a principle. Perhaps it would help if you listed all the sections of Corinthians, and other letters, which you think have only local applicability.

(As it happens, I do think there are some clearly marked ones in 1 Corinthians, but this isn't one of them.)

And yet, you seem pretty cavalier about theft so long as it is promulgated by the state in the form of divorce court.

Where did I say that current divorce law was fair or just or right? My point again: the unfairness (note the word) of current divorce law should not prevent you marrying a women you would otherwise marry.

They are fickle creatures, and there is no way to predict what they might do.

I believe your attitude to women is unbiblical, and this generalisation is incorrect. See Proverbs 31 for a counter-example. Or do you think that when it says "A woman of noble character who can find?", it's a rhetorical question expecting the answer "no-one"?

That's the problem, Amir; Gerv is trying to force me into the kitchen anyway. And once in, he won't let me out.

I'm not trying to force you into the kitchen. I'm trying to highlight that you have some unbiblical reasons for not entering it. If you have some biblical reasons as well, fine, don't enter. I've said that several times already, but I can say it again if it'll help you accept that I'm saying it :-)

I simply refuse to be a slave to another human being.

If you're talking about during a marriage, then you have a very skewed view of marriage which I suggest you need to fix - not necessarily so you can get married, but because this view will clearly affect you interactions with other married couples and with your parents. If you're talking about post-divorce and alimony, then I suggest that you are being disproportionate.

Triton said...

Oh, for goodness sake.

Don't get exasperated with me. You're the one who made a blanket statement that was something other than what you meant. If you mean something different than what you type, fine, we all make mistakes, but don't blame me for it.

Do you also believe the Bible is flawed because Luke 16:18 and Matthew 5:32 are not word-for-word the same?

Of course not, and that has nothing to do with your pronouncement that "divorce is wrong" without qualifiers.

I attend Enfield Evangelical Free Church.

Ah, a Brit. I might have guessed.

I've never heard of an "Evangelical Free Church", but from the web page, it looks to be on pretty solid footing as far as the basics go.

I don't know what would happen if a couple divorced; it's never happened in the seven years I've been there.

Then you and I are simply living in different worlds. You have no idea what the situation is like across the pond. I've had a number of male Christian friends marry supposedly Christian women only to end up divorced. The women over here simply don't commit to marriage, at least not in numbers large enough to convince me that they are the rule rather than the exception.

Just being raised in a church environment and supposedly being a Christian doesn't make a girl good marriage material. See "Britney Spears", for a famous example.

Perhaps it would help if you listed all the sections of Corinthians, and other letters, which you think have only local applicability.

You'd be surprised; I actually believe quite a bit of the Bible (more than most people think) only has local applicability. It's not all about us, you know.

Sorting all that out is a large task, however, so perhaps another time. Sorry.

But it is not logical to conclude from that that his answers only had local applicability.

Correct. However, one can not conclude global applicability, either. The solution is to compare the passage in question with the rest of Scripture.

Where did I say that current divorce law was fair or just or right? My point again: the unfairness (note the word) of current divorce law should not prevent you marrying a women you would otherwise marry.

When you say that a system that is unjust doesn't warrant consideration, then you are being inconsiderate of the victims of that system.

The whole purpose of wisdom is to learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others so that you don't repeat them.

I believe your attitude to women is unbiblical, and this generalisation is incorrect.See Proverbs 31 for a counter-example. Or do you think that when it says "A woman of noble character who can find?", it's a rhetorical question expecting the answer "no-one"?

That question IS rhetorical, but I don't believe the answer is "no-one". Nor do I believe, however, that the answer is "every woman who goes to church".

And I'm sure you're aware of the numerous verses that are not very flattering towards women. My attitude is quite Biblical. Just sticking with Proverbs, we have these:

Prov. 21:19, 25:24, 27:15, 30:21-23, etc. And that doesn't even include all the talk about "strange" women or adultresses.

And, of course, there's Ecc. 7:26-28.

No, there's plenty of rough language in the Bible, and my referring to women as fickle creatures is pretty tame by comparison. And if you think I'm wrong, and women are not fickle, then by all means make your case. But I've read too many stories and known too many men who have married women who left them for spurious reasons. Maybe all the women in your neck of the world take their wedding vows seriously; if so, I think that's wonderful. But it has not been the case in my experience.

If you're talking about during a marriage, then you have a very skewed view of marriage

Likewise, I think your view of marriage is very skewed. You seem to think that it's some sort of cure-all, when at best it only exchanges one set of problems for another equally onerous set.

this view will clearly affect you interactions with other married couples and with your parents

Nonsense. It has done nothing of the kind. When my friends marry, I congratulate them just like you presumably would. I certainly don't pressure them to break off engagements or anything. They have to make their own choices, and in return, I expect them to let me make mine. This is where we differ; I believe to marry or not is a matter of individual conscience, whereas you would pressure others to make the same choice you did.

Amir Larijani said...

Gerv: I'm not sure that Triton is trying to make the case that a man ought not marry an otherwise godly woman solely on the basis of financial risk.

It seems to me--correct me if I'm off base, Triton--that Triton is merely saying

(1) Determining whether a prospective mate is godly and otherwise reliable, has become an order of magnitude riskier. Personally, I think that is true for both sexes, as (a) social structures that provided a means of vetting are largely nonexistent today, and (b) social expectations have moved leftward over the past 40 years.

(2) Some men are choosing Jesus' 3rd "eunuch" option: given their situations, they are serving the purposes of the Kingdom by "not getting into the kitchen".

The issue is whether the men who are opting that route--I don't know any personally, but there are obviously a fair number of them in the blogosphere--are doing so out of prudence or out of fear.

Ultimately, one must decide between himself and God whether that choice is legitimate. I am not the judge of that.

Triton said...

It depends on the man in question, Amir, and his personal risk tolerance. For example, some men would never, under any circumstances, attempt to day-trade stocks using leverage because the risk involved is simply too great for them to deal with. Other men don't have a problem with the risk at all, and are quite successful at it.

What these men have in common is that both recognize the magnitude of the risk and accept it as reality.

I'm sure you would agree that it's a pretty despicable broker that tells his clients that there isn't any risk in day-trading with leverage, then pressures them into day-trading. Yet, that's analogous to the stuff we've been hearing from the Marraige Mandate crowd.

That's all I'm trying to do, Amir - point out the magnitude of the risk in the hopes that others will accept it as reality before making life-altering decisions. What men choose to do after that is up to them.

catwoman said...

I don't dispute that there is some personal liberty involved in the decision to marry or stay single, esp. considering the "do as he/she wants" language of 1 Cor 7:36-39. But what bugs me is when ordinary circumstantially single folk claim Matt 19:12, as if they have truly decided single for the sake of the kingdom.

Another thing that irritates me is how those who have sought marriage unsuccessfully feel oh-so-judged by "marriage mandate" writers, as if they allow no leeway for those who are involuntarily single. Could Christ's examples of involuntary "eunuchs" - born that way or made that way by men - be an acknowledgement of the stark reality of living in a fallen world? Most likely, since there is some limit to the control that people have over their romantic options.

What we don't know is how we will be judged for those with more or less options passing up those that might have led to a godly marriage. We cannot assume that God is quite alright with people staying single simply to pursue their own ambitions (or "gifts", as modernly termed) and preferred lifestyles.

As for "risk factors", I think it's a convenient excuse to blame men's risk aversion entirely on women's higher rates of filing for divorce. The risks of marriage exist for both sexes (but then again, there's also a cost/benefit risk analysis for staying single, esp. for men).

Gerv should know that the rationale of the regulars he's been talking to is that because the only "biblical" grounds for divorce is adultery and abandonment (which is only listed as grounds for divorce some of the time), divorces (initiated mostly by women) are occuring mostly for "frivolous" reasons (ie. addiction, criminality, financial irresponsibility/dishonesty physical and emotional abuse being a few of those frivolous reasons...incompatibility and other problems with the relationship being even more frivolous). And if it weren't for women's lib putting women in the workplace, women would have to stay in their marriages regardless of the circumstances, like they did in the old days when things were much better. In other words, the risk factors for divorce are created mostly by women.

Gerv said...

I believe to marry or not is a matter of individual conscience, whereas you would pressure others to make the same choice you did.

One final point of fact to clear up: I'm not married.

Catwoman: thanks for your input. I see what you are saying about "frivolous reasons"; but in those circumstances, why do women not see separation (as opposed to divorce) as an option? I can't think of anywhere where that is Biblically forbidden (although of course it's far from ideal!).

catwoman said...

"Catwoman: thanks for your input. I see what you are saying about "frivolous reasons"; but in those circumstances, why do women not see separation (as opposed to divorce) as an option?"

How would separation be preferable to divorce?

Gerv said...

Because man should not separate what God has joined together. And it leaves open the possibility of Holy-Spirit-driven repentance and reconciliation.

Of course, this is only "preferable" in the sense of having your legs amputated is preferable to dying of gangrene. Neither is good.

But let's ask the question the other way. Why choose divorce over separation? Even if parting is the only option, remarriage is still Biblically forbidden (note to Triton: yes, unless the parting was under the Biblically-permitted circumstances). And that's what divorce clears the way for.

The norm is that we only get one go at this, even if we marry a spouse-beater. Is it "unfair" to say people who marry violent partners can't remarry? No more unfair than the fact that some people don't get married at all is unfair. (Hopefully, that should answer the suggestion that I'm advocating that people get married lightly, or without very careful prayer and consideration.)

Having said that, some of your list of reasons people are divorcing sound like reasons for support and prayer and some more "till death do us part". Do women really divorce their husbands if they develop an addiction? Tears, misery, counselling, rehab, jail, yes - all that and more, I'm sure. Triton has rightly pointed out that marriage isn't an idyll. But none of that changes the promise you both made before God.

If your partner commits a criminal act (for example), justice says they should take whatever punishment is appropriate. That by itself is no grounds for divorce. God doesn't say "you're married until he does something you're ashamed of".

I don't know your life story, and I don't want to be tactless. Perhaps you agree with the above, I don't know. But if not, where in scripture does it say that your partner being a criminal or an addict are grounds for divorce?

catwoman said...

"where in scripture does it say that your partner being a criminal or an addict are grounds for divorce?"

It doesn't. However, most churches will allow remarriage under those circumstances, not only for compassionate grounds but probably for the greater good. Let's just say a 28 year old man finds himself married to a woman with bi-polar disorder that stops responding to medication. And so he separates because after years of coping, her manic episodes and violent outbursts make it impossible for him to live with her. We could say to him, oh, just get a separation, but is he really likely to live out his life as a obediently celibate and hopeful believer? (or her, if the genders are reversed?). As much as it is said, "in sickness and in health", the reality is that most who are loosed from their marriages will find a sexual outlet elsewhere, so it is the lesser of two evils to allow remarriage.

One thing about divorce, is that forces both parties to accept the consequences and get on with their lives. If divorce is not permissible, then separation isn't much of a solution either.

Gerv said...

We could say to him, oh, just get a separation, but is he really likely to live out his life as a obediently celibate and hopeful believer?

So you argument is, he's unlikely to be obedient, so we should sanction his disobedience?

Other single men (e.g. those bereaved or not married) are also called to celibacy. Why can't we use the same argument for them? "Well, it's not likely they are going to manage it, so we should allow them to 'find a sexual outlet' somewhere."

Amir Larijani said...

Gerv: Moreover, chances are, by the time the couple is considering a separation, it is highly probable that neither of them are being obedient.

Separation, in this case, might allow for a cooling off period, where both parties can get some appropriate counsel, then resume their relationship.

A divorce, on the other hand, is guaranteed to cause irreparable damage.

There are times where it may be necessary--unrepentant adultery and physical abuse come to mind--but more often than not, when it involves two believers, it is a case of one or both of them copping out.

The gravity of Jesus' teachings on divorce and remarriage is no small matter, as He established a very strong operative rule: remarriage is adultery, even in the case of the spouse who was wronged (Matthew 5:32).

In Jesus' day, Jewish women could not divorce their husbands; only husbands could divorce their wives. And they often did so for any reason under the sun.

At the time, there was a debate between two prominent Rabbis: Hillel and Shammai. Hillel believed in liberal divorce--a man could divorce for any reason under the sun--whereas Shammai believed that the bar needed to be higher.

That is the backdrop against which Jesus threw down the gauntlet.

Lest anyone think that is an anomaly, in Matthew 19, Jesus' "eunuchs" response was an answer to disciples who, upon hearing his hard teachings about divorce and remarriage, exclaimed, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry."

Ergo, against that backdrop, Jesus' explanation about "eunuchs" is more of along the lines of, "If you can't stand the heat, then it might be for the good of the Kingdom of God that you not enter the kitchen at all."

catwoman said...

Gerv,

If you are to go by strict biblical terms, separation is no better than divorce. And there are no proper "grounds" for divorce or remarriage, just that you can allow an unbelieving spouse to leave and that the remarriage of the divorced is adultery, with the exception of "porneia". Even if we know it's not adultery when those in that circumstance remarry, we still don't know if it might be displeasing to God on other grounds. The scriptures never say "go ahead, remarry" to anyone but the widowed.

As today, the law at that time allowed for divorce and remarriage, but indeed, with believers are called to a higher standard, and the conundrums between what is allowable and what is good. As much as it's easy to hold to the ideal in theory, the hardness of heart is a reality among humans. This is why divorce became legally allowable, and why believers have always deliberated over these laws vs. principles on a case by case basis. And why denominations have often differed in the handling of divorce and remarriage. Sometimes the most strident interpretation is not always the most merciful, or just, for that matter. Sometimes it really does come down to choosing between the lesser of so many evils. Neither death by gangrene nor amputation is good, but it's obvious which one is better.

Amir said: :Jesus' explanation about "eunuchs" is more of along the lines of, "If you can't stand the heat, then it might be for the good of the Kingdom of God that you not enter the kitchen at all."

Jesus wasn't saying "if you can't stand the heat stay out of the kitchen", but rather "if you can't stand the heat, how about a little more heat?". He was using the irony of the human proclivity to avoid discomfort to show how much more hardship you can take on "for the sake of the gospel" (as being a "eunuch" for that purpose would certainly be). But ONLY for the sake of the gospel -- there's no singleness for the sake of more snowboarding or shopping. At least not in the Bible.

Amir Larijani said...

Catwoman says: Jesus wasn't saying "if you can't stand the heat stay out of the kitchen", but rather "if you can't stand the heat, how about a little more heat?".

Not true. In fact, (a) combined with His teachings regarding marriage and divorce--which were very rough--and (b) given the exclamation of the disciples, his response clearly indicates that, in asserting the third "eunuch" option, He is clearly suggesting that not marrying could very well be a viable choice for a believer, given (a) the gravity of the marriage covenant, (b) the ramifications of divorce, and (c) the implications of remarriage.

Marriage, divorce, and remarriage were very haphazardly practiced in those days, just as they are today.

Neither the Jews of that time nor the Christians of today treat the marriage covenant with the reverence and seriousness that Scripture clearly ascribes to it.

Even in the Church, it is common to see marriages break up, and for such folks to later remarry.

And yet Jesus condemns that practice multiple times in Scripture.

Like I said, in those days only a man could divorce a woman; women had no ability to divorce men in Jewish society.

Ergo, when a man divorced his wife, this put the woman in a very bad situation, as her only economic recourse (other than prostitution) was remarriage. This is why, in that context, a man who divorces his wife "forces her to commit adultery".

In other words, even though she may be suffering divorce for no fault of her own, (1) by remarrying she was committing adultery, and (2) any man who married her--even if he did so with the best of intentions, such as helping her avoid a life of prostitution--was also committing adultery.

In teaching as He did, Jesus was dropping a bomb on everyone, forcing a sober consideration of marriage.

If one cannot stand the heat, then it is within the best interests of the sake of the Kingdom of God that he or she not get in that kitchen.

All that said, if one meets an otherwise Godly person, and is drawn to that person, and--having sought God's direction--they decide to marry, then by all means they ought to. Marriage is a good thing, and people ought not be discouraged from pursuing it.

That also means that when a single expresses a desire to get married, that ought to be treated as a legitimate expression of need. Neither men nor women ought to be treated like sexual predators for expressing such an aspiration.

On the other hand, (a) one may be called to a season of singleness, as there could be a dearth of mates in his or her venue; and (b) one may be called to a lifetime of singleness, either for special service to God, or due to personal temperment issues.

After all, I'm sure we would agree that someone who is prone to be abusive would be better off--for the sake of the Kingdom--not marrying at all (as would the man or woman that would otherwise be the spouse of such a one!)

He was using the irony of the human proclivity to avoid discomfort to show how much more hardship you can take on "for the sake of the gospel" (as being a "eunuch" for that purpose would certainly be). But ONLY for the sake of the gospel -- there's no singleness for the sake of more snowboarding or shopping. At least not in the Bible.

Excuse me, but who said anything about singleness for the sake of snowboarding or shopping?

catwoman said...

"If one cannot stand the heat, then it is within the best interests of the sake of the Kingdom of God that he or she not get in that kitchen."

I don't think there are many theologians who would agree with your "risk management" intepretation of this scripture, which has historically been understood as a reference to the option of celibate service.

Yes, there may be those who are better off not marrying, due to proneness to abuse whether by nature (born eunuchs?) or by nurture (made eunuchs by men, ie. their dysfunctional families?). But these involuntary, unfortunate, "non-gifted" types are to be contrasted with the third type of eunuch who voluntarily "made themselves eunuchs" for the sake of the kingdom.

"who said anything about singleness for the sake of snowboarding or shopping?"

I'm not saying it's a sin to remain single for your own enjoyment, but rather pointing out that the scriptures never legitimize this as an option. And that this should give us pause to examine our own motives for staying single.

catwoman said...

Gerv said:

"So you argument is, he's unlikely to be obedient, so we should sanction his disobedience?...Other single men (e.g. those bereaved or not married) are also called to celibacy. Why can't we use the same argument for them?"

I agree that the standard for sexual purity for the divorced should be the same as for the never married and vice versa. And as far as "sexual outlets" go, there is one. It's called marriage. Christians of the past did not agonize about the likelihood of being able to obtain that outlet. They were realistic about the power of the sex drive and made the seeking of marriage a priority, as opposed to the "waiting on the Lord" mentality of so many believers today.

Amir Larijani said...

Catwoman says:
I don't think there are many theologians who would agree with your "risk management" intepretation of this scripture, which has historically been understood as a reference to the option of celibate service.

Actually, having aced several of their classes, that is certainly the case: they did agree with my assessment of those passages.

(I only bring that up because of your comment.)

Every time Jesus addressed the issue of divorce, He came down very hard on the premise that remarriage is adultery.

Ergo, when the disciples exclaimed that it would be better not to marry at all, Jesus' punctuation on the matter--the line about the eunuchs--is tantamount to "tough crap. If you can't handle it, then it's better for the Kingdom if some don't marry at all."

Divorce was rampant among the Jews then, just as it is rampant among Christians today.

(Even though the divorce rates are lower among regular church attendees, it's still nothing to brag about.)

Jesus called Christians to a higher standard regarding the marriage covenant. That standard is no flippant matter.

That a man or woman insist that a prospective mate take that covenant--and his or her Biblically-defined covenant roles--seriously, is both laudable and advisable.

We're not talking about people choosing snowboarding or shopping over marriage, and then sanctifying it by claiming to be "eunuchs for the Kingdom".

Nor are we talking about people choosing career and money over marriage, and then sanctifying that choice by claiming to be "eunuchs for the Kingdom".

Nor ought this this give carte blanche to any Christian "minister" who attempts to minimize the apiration of a single toward marriage.

I am referring to a person who--having assessed his or her own fitness, his or her place in life, and his or her own calling from God--has arrived at the decision that it is within the best interests of the Kingdom that (a) he or she not marry at this time, or (b) he or she not marry at all.

That is as Biblically legitimate as the aspiration to marry.

Gerv said...

If you are to go by strict biblical terms, separation is no better than divorce.

I'm not sure how you reach that conclusion. Divorce is forbidden (except yada yada yada) but separation is nowhere forbidden.

Even if we know it's not adultery when those in that circumstance remarry, we still don't know if it might be displeasing to God on other grounds.

God has covered what is sinful and what isn't fully in Scripture. To say that he hasn't is basically saying that life is full of unspottable sin bear-traps, where we might do things that displease God but have no way of knowing about it.

catwoman said...

I said "If you are to go by strict biblical terms, separation is no better than divorce."

Then Gerv said "I'm not sure how you reach that conclusion. Divorce is forbidden (except yada yada yada) but separation is nowhere forbidden"

Check out 1 Cor 7:10-15. It speaks in terms of of departing or leaving an unbelieving spouse. As others have pointed out, it doesn't even mention divorce, let alone remarriage.

"God has covered what is sinful and what isn't fully in Scripture. To say that he hasn't is basically saying that life is full of unspottable sin bear-traps, where we might do things that displease God but have no way of knowing about it."

I'm not saying that you are a legalist, but this is a legalist argument. That somehow if you follow all the written rules, not doing things you're not supposed to do, then you haven't sinned. When in fact, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. So when we miss the mark and fail to do things we should have done, then to some degree or another, we sin -- even if we don't entirely know how God will judge us in those circumstances.

Humans are depraved. Sin permeates every act, as well as "non-acts".

catwoman said...

Amir: "I am referring to a person who--having assessed his or her own fitness, his or her place in life, and his or her own calling from God--has arrived at the decision that it is within the best interests of the Kingdom that (a) he or she not marry at this time, or (b) he or she not marry at all."

Similar to what I was saying to Gerv, I don't think we know how God will judge our marital acts and "non-acts", nor do I think are people granted clear "calling" from God as to whether or not to marry (the scriptures don't speak of this kind of "calling" in regards to marital choice making).

Assuming that there is some liberty afforded to the individual, as far as marrying or staying single, (1 Cor 7:33-39), I would assert that doing as you please still doesn't quite reach the mark of those who "make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom", the latter phrase suggesting much more gifted grandeur than those in 1 Cor 7 who are simply making a practical choice that suits them.

When something is "for the sake of the kingdom", there's got to be more going on than just avoiding making a boo-boo.

Amir Larijani said...

Catwoman says: Similar to what I was saying to Gerv, I don't think we know how God will judge our marital acts and "non-acts", nor do I think are people granted clear "calling" from God as to whether or not to marry (the scriptures don't speak of this kind of "calling" in regards to marital choice making).

Are you suggesting that God does not specifically lead people to particular choices? Based on both Scripture and experience, I'd beg to differ.

In fact, I can point to instances in which God specifically led me NOT to pursue certain women--in spite of my pleading--and then, when they self-destructed a few years later, I understood then what I didn't see before.

(Such experience has ample Biblical precedent. Abraham went 25 years after his calling before receiving a son. Joseph would get beaten within an inch of his life, sold into slavery, framed for a crime he didn't commit, get forgotten in jail, before finally becoming the #2 man in Egypt. Moses spent 40 years in the wilderness--after he tried to take matters into his own hands--before God called him to go back and lead the Israelites. He was 80 years old when God called him back to Egypt.)

Moreover, if a person is single in spite of his or her attempts, it is reasonable to consider whether God has called that person--at least for a season--to be single.

There is Biblical precedent for people who endure various burdens--and even societal ostracization--for reasons that have nothing to do with any personal sin. In some cases, their vindication comes late in life. It's the exception, but it happens.

That we do not know the reason why is irrelevant, as Job never received the exact answer in his frame of reference either.

There are times where God allows us to experience things, and He does not always tell us the reason. This is why I never pass judgment on individuals who are single farther into adulthood than we would consider normal.

Again, for clarification, I am referring to a person--male or female--who has sought God on the matter.

Assuming that person is following God, his or her faith will be counted as righteousness. There is no ambiguity on that matter.

Assuming that there is some liberty afforded to the individual, as far as marrying or staying single, (1 Cor 7:33-39), I would assert that doing as you please still doesn't quite reach the mark of those who "make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom", the latter phrase suggesting much more gifted grandeur than those in 1 Cor 7 who are simply making a practical choice that suits them.

Excuse me, but who said anything about "doing as you please"? This is about a man or woman--evaluating things soberly before God and seeking God's face--arriving at the decision to either (a) remain single for a season, or (b) remain single.

This is not about men, either, as I know more woman who are doing this than men.

Is it right for them but not right for the men?

When something is "for the sake of the kingdom", there's got to be more going on than just avoiding making a boo-boo.

That you would rank divorce as a "boo hoo"--rather than a tragic, disastrous breach of covenant--is quite preposterous. Such a view has zero precedent in Scripture.

Moreover, Gerv and myself have already established that we are not referring to fear-based risk aversion.

Even further, we have already established that this is not about "shopping" or "snowboarding".

catwoman said...

"Are you suggesting that God does not specifically lead people to particular choices?"

I do think it's possible, but I'm not so quick to interpret events in terms of "God led me" here or there, since you could, with motives that aren't expressly sinful but still very human, and God, under His sovereignty could allow it (perhaps not necessarily for the sake of that person's love life, but for other circumstantial reasons unknown), but still not be entirely thrilled with the spiritual quality of what you've chosen (yet still using it to His glory, perhaps in some other way). I think a lot of things happen that way, even in the lives of believers, *especially* in the area of human relationships.

"In fact, I can point to instances in which God specifically led me NOT to pursue certain women--in spite of my pleading--and then, when they self-destructed a few years later, I understood then what I didn't see before."

It's not clear what you're saying here, but it's often what I hear when a lot of believers talk about "being led". Is what you're saying here that God *told* you not to pursue them, despite another part of you that was attracted to them? Or that circumstantially, things didn't work out, and now you're glad because of what you know about her now?

Sometimes you can get a hunch about someone, seemingly without any *proof*, per se. I think it's a mystery whether it's intuiting from wisdom acquired from good biblical teaching about what's good for you and what's not AND/OR something more mystical.

"Again, for clarification, I am referring to a person--male or female--who has sought God on the matter...Assuming that person is following God, his or her faith will be counted as righteousness. There is no ambiguity on that matter."

I don't know if anyone's faith is entirely righteous, and so there's always ambiguity. That is why we have grace through Christ. The word of Christ gives us wisdom, and His grace gives room to move in the very human choices we must make in life.

"Excuse me, but who said anything about "doing as you please"? This is about a man or woman--evaluating things soberly before God and seeking God's face--arriving at the decision to either (a) remain single for a season, or (b) remain single...This is not about men, either, as I know more woman who are doing this than men...Is it right for them but not right for the men?"

First of all, Amir, there is no where in the Bible where we are advised to "seek God's face" in regards to mate finding, nor do the scriptures assure us of any confirmation that "this is THE ONE!". Perhaps we need to consider the possibility that although everything happens under the sovereignty of God, perhaps not all things are in the *economy* of God. Perhaps there are reasons why the scriptures speak of the whole marriage/singleness thing in the language of human effort and choice. The Lord probably hates it when we rubber stamp His approval onto our goofy choices!

Secondly, I don't know where you get the "is this about men?" thing from. "she is at liberty to be married to whom she will" is about widows (verse 39), just as "let him do what he will" (verse 36) is about betrothed men. See? No special provisos to obtain any kind of divine revelation on the matter. Believers should pray over their choices and look to scriptures for wisdom, but there's no golden formula for these practices, as something that is done "everytime" a decision is to be made. But generally speaking in your life, these disciplines should yield fruits, a straighter wake for your boat, better decisions, if you will.

"There are times where God allows us to experience things, and He does not always tell us the reason. This is why I never pass judgment on individuals who are single farther into adulthood than we would consider normal."

I agree, that there are many reasons why an individual might remain single, that it's not always what you'd think.

Just for the record, Amir, you don't sound like someone who has not done whatever would be humanly possible in order to find a mate. I empathize with the obstacles that you've disclosed, such as your disability and your height. I just wish you'd acknowledge those things more, rather than deeming those who have overlooked you as being shallow.

Anonymous said...

"That you would rank divorce as a "boo hoo"--rather than a tragic, disastrous breach of covenant--is quite preposterous."

Uh, I said "boo-boo" (as in a *mistake*), not "boo-Hoo".

All I was saying is that when Jesus put forth the option of remaining single "for the sake of the kingdom", He was referring to something more than just avoiding a bad marital choice. He's essentially saying that if you're going to avoid marriage (ie. so as to avoid a divorce), then at least do something for the kingdom (as if not making a mistake would be enough to be considered something you've done "for the sake of the kingdom"!!)

Amir Larijani said...

Catwoman: Uh, I said "boo-boo" (as in a *mistake*), not "boo-Hoo".

"Mistake" still does not do the term justice.

All I was saying is that when Jesus put forth the option of remaining single "for the sake of the kingdom", He was referring to something more than just avoiding a bad marital choice. He's essentially saying that if you're going to avoid marriage (ie. so as to avoid a divorce), then at least do something for the kingdom (as if not making a mistake would be enough to be considered something you've done "for the sake of the kingdom"!!)

All believers--single and married--are called to the Great Commission. Singles have great opportunities in this area, on account of their time and in some cases their money. The Church, in many cases, has been guilty of eschewing singles in that regard.

The most amusing example of this was, of all things, a singles class.

The pastor, in spite of there being very qualified singles--who expressed willingness to teach the class--would always pick a married person, no matter how unqualified he was, to teach. This is because the pastor believed that having a ring on your finger somehow made you more spiritual.

Needless to say, every time he did that, the results were disastrous.

Things came to a head when he nominated a teacher who had been run out of other classes for sheer incompetence.

At that point, I decided I'd had enough of the shenanigans and threatened to take the matter before the whole Body. At that point, the pastor said, "Fine, Amir...YOU teach the class."

And so I started teaching the class, and the conflict subsided. In fact, when the opportunity arose, I would go on to merge the class with another class, so as to integrate singles with the rest of the church.

Getting singles ministry--or any group that is isolated--out of isolation ought to be a major priority of the Church.

Amir Larijani said...

Catwoman asks: It's not clear what you're saying here, but it's often what I hear when a lot of believers talk about "being led". Is what you're saying here that God *told* you not to pursue them, despite another part of you that was attracted to them? Or that circumstantially, things didn't work out, and now you're glad because of what you know about her now?

Actually, in those cases, the women were (a) seemingly fine Christians who were very attentive and involved in church, participating in the same ministries as I was, (b) very middle-of-the-road on the attractiveness scale (which I consider a positive thing, as "middle of the road" is where I aim in that department), and (c) had most of the same interests that I had in life.

On paper, those appeared to be excellent matches. The women in this case were even attracted to me.

Ergo, when God--in no uncertain terms--let it be known that I was NOT to pursue them, you could imagine my consternation.

When those women self-destructed, what was my reaction? The most profound sadness. I fought several years of depression after one of them went down.

For me, this was not merely about marriage, but rather about life.

While I was relieved that the marriages did not happen--only because they most certainly would have taken me down with them--I grieved that those women went down the way they did. Far more was at stake than my relationship with them.

Now, is it true that one can use the "I was led by God to do [such and such]..." line flippantly? You bet. I've seen that no small number of times. I'm usually skeptical of people who do, and I generally look at how they use such terms.

I rarely do so myself--I'm a Reform Baptist, not a Pentecostal--but in these cases there was no mistaking it.

In one case, we're talking multiple dreams, later confirmed with events coming to pass. It was both depressing and jaw-dropping.

It was depressing in that witnessing what happened to her was (and still is in retrospect) downright saddening, but jaw-dropping in that there is absolutely no way I would have ever imagined such things regarding the woman involved.

There are some women (and men) who show clear signs of instability. For them, it's clearly a case of "caveat emptor".

Still, there are others who (a) seem like fine Christians, (b) have good references, (c) have good families, and (d) still are self-destructions waiting to happen.

Even after those, I still have all my hair. It is a little grayer, though.

Amir Larijani said...

Catwoman:
Just for the record, Amir, you don't sound like someone who has not done whatever would be humanly possible in order to find a mate. I empathize with the obstacles that you've disclosed, such as your disability and your height. I just wish you'd acknowledge those things more, rather than deeming those who have overlooked you as being shallow.

The disability--severe arthritis--is a recent thing, only materializing over the past few years. Still, I've managed to stay in shape in spite of that. I come from a family of fitness nuts, and--admittedly--I'm a bit radical on that front myself.

I've never suggested that all women who refused me were shallow.

Some were, and the evidence was clear by what they did after the fact. For others, it's just a matter of preferences. We all have them.

I'll not begrudge any woman for having preferences and standards; on the other hand, I also expect the same reciprocity from the women with respect to the men.

If women are not shallow for refusing short or bald or fat men, then men are not shallow for refusing women who do not manage their weight (a common complaint by the men, sometimes a fair one, other times not a fair one).

It is very common for women to accuse men of chasing "only the attractive women". It's very common for society to beat up on men for being "shallow" in that department.

(Heck, the movie Shallow Hal exploited that stereotype. Wanna bet me as to whether such a movie will be made about such a "shallow" woman?)

In contrast, I've long contended that (1) people have standards and preferences, and (2) it is between you and God to resolve whether your preferences are reasonable.

That has been the view that I have championed from here, and also from my own blog space.

Gerv said...

Check out 1 Cor 7:10-15. It speaks in terms of of departing or leaving an unbelieving spouse. As others have pointed out, it doesn't even mention divorce, let alone remarriage.

Which translation are you using? Mine definitely uses the word divorce. "To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife."

That seems fairly clear to me: separation is bad, but if it happens, that doesn't mean you get a divorce and marry someone else - you stay single or reconcile.

I'm not saying that you are a legalist, but this is a legalist argument. That somehow if you follow all the written rules, not doing things you're not supposed to do, then you haven't sinned.

A legalist would claim this is actually possible to do; I don't.

But my point is not that anyway, my point is that God does not leave hidden bear traps around the place. As Christians, we are called to obey God and avoid sin to the best of our ability - not to earn our salvation, but because he's our creator and worthy of obedience. My point is that there is no sin which we have to avoid which the Bible does not tell us about. To take a trivial example, sleeping on one's back can't be intrinsically sinful, because Scripture doesn't say anything about it. Similarly, if remarriage after God-permitted divorce was sinful, he would have told us. He hasn't, so it's not.

catwoman said...

"Check out 1 Cor 7:10-15. It speaks in terms of of departing or leaving an unbelieving spouse. As others have pointed out, it doesn't even mention divorce, let alone remarriage.

Which translation are you using? Mine definitely uses the word divorce."

Some newer translations use "divorce". The Greek work "aphiēmi" means "send away" or "put away", as is used in the KJV.

"My point is that there is no sin which we have to avoid which the Bible does not tell us about. To take a trivial example, sleeping on one's back can't be intrinsically sinful, because Scripture doesn't say anything about it. Similarly, if remarriage after God-permitted divorce was sinful, he would have told us. He hasn't, so it's not."

There are plenty of things that aren't mentioned in the Bible that should give modern Christian pause. For example, the Bible doesn't speak about polluting the environment, but certainly there have been serious consequences to what we have done to God's creation. But because it's "not in the Bible", it's not sin?

catwoman said...

"All believers--single and married--are called to the Great Commission."

Making oneself a eunuch for sake of the kingdom bespeaks of a sacrifice that goes beyond what one might ordinarily do to fulfill the GC. That's why Jesus prefaces what he says by saying "not all can receive this teaching, except those who are gifted".

And I agree that getting singles ministry out of isolation ought to be a major priority of the Church, and that not allowing singles to run Bible studies is ridiculous.

However, as far as respect is concerned, there is a certain kind of esteem bestowed on those who are married (particularly, with children) that singles will never really receive. Likewise, there's a certain level of prestige that goes along with "marrying well" that those who have not married well do not experience.

I think it's good for singles to dispell misconceptions about singleness whenever they can and work towards a better place in the church, but they need to understand that all the protesting in the world will not elevate singleness to the same esteemed level of marriage, as far as global perceptions are concerned.

It's kind of like activism about size. Yes, we know that people can be overweight, underweight, short or tall for various reasons, thanks to those who have worked to raise the profile of the "differently sized". Perhaps a few people will make a note of listening more to those who are not taken as seriously or perhaps even give someone of a different size more of a chance romantically. But the net effect of human preferences will always be the same.

Amir Larijani said...

Catwoman says:
However, as far as respect is concerned, there is a certain kind of esteem bestowed on those who are married (particularly, with children) that singles will never really receive. Likewise, there's a certain level of prestige that goes along with "marrying well" that those who have not married well do not experience.

I think it's good for singles to dispell misconceptions about singleness whenever they can and work towards a better place in the church, but they need to understand that all the protesting in the world will not elevate singleness to the same esteemed level of marriage, as far as global perceptions are concerned.

It's kind of like activism about size. Yes, we know that people can be overweight, underweight, short or tall for various reasons, thanks to those who have worked to raise the profile of the "differently sized". Perhaps a few people will make a note of listening more to those who are not taken as seriously or perhaps even give someone of a different size more of a chance romantically. But the net effect of human preferences will always be the same.


The larger issue here, is not whether married people--as a general rule--will get more consideration than singles, although there is no New Testament case for its justification, but rather (a) the systematic eschewing of singles, no matter what their demonstration of spiritual gifts are, and (b) the elevation of married people, in spite of no evidence of any spiritual gift.

In the mega church culture, that is majorly pervasive, even though there is no precedent in the New Testament justifying that mindset.

After all, we know of only one of the original Disciples as having been married: Peter, who had a mother-in-law.

If the Early Church had the same mindset toward believers that today's Church in the United States has, they would really have been hard-up for ministers.

catwoman said...

About being led away from those self-destructing women, I think it's great that you give God the glory in those situations. But I don't know how much we are to interpret our dreams as being "from God". Dreams are a mysterious mix of the unconscious sleeping mind on autopilot, as well as "day residue". I'm not saying that God can work through your unconscious, but rather it's something that He has designed for our very survival, perhaps to overcome desires we have that may blind us to warning signs we might otherwise have seen. Here's a case in point, from Gavin DeBecker, who wrote "The Gift of Fear" based on his years of experience at predicting violent behavior. He's talking about an interview with a rape victim who allowed a seemingly nice man into her apartment who had volunteered to help her with groceries:

"Kelly is about to learn that listening to one small survival signal saved her life, just as failing to follow so many others had put her at risk in the first place. She looks at me through moist but clear eyes and says she wants to understand every strategy he used. She wants me to tell her what her intuition saw that saved her life. But she will tell me.

"It was after he'd already held the gun to my head, after he raped me. It was after that. He got up from the bed, got dressed, then closed the window. He glanced at his watch, and then started acting like he was in a hurry."

"I gotta be somewhere. Hey, don't look so scared. I promise I'm not going to hurt you." Kelly absolutely knew he was lying. She knew he planned to kill her, and though it may be hard to imagine, it was the first time since the incident began that she felt profound fear.

He motioned to her with the gun and said, "Don't you move or do anything. I'm going to the kitchen to get something to drink, and then I'll leave. I promise. But you stay right where you are." He had little reason to be concerned that Kelly might disobey his instructions because she had been, from the moment she let go of that bag until this moment, completely under his control. "You know I won't move," she assured him.

But the instant he stepped from the room, Kelly stood up and walked after him, pulling the sheet off the bed with her. "I was literally right behind him, like a ghost, and he didn't know I was there. We walked down the hall together. At one point he stopped, and so did I. He was looking at my stereo, which was playing some music, and he reached out and made it louder. When he moved on toward the kitchen, I turned and walked through the living room."

Kelly could hear drawers being opened as she walked out her front door, leaving it ajar. She walked directly into the apartment across the hall (which she somehow knew would be unlocked). Holding a finger up to signal her surprised neighbors to be quiet, she locked their door behind her.

"I knew if I had stayed in my room, he was going to come back from the kitchen and kill me, but I don't know how I was so certain."

"Yes, you do," I tell her.

She sighs and then goes over it again. "He got up and got dressed, closed the window, looked at his watch. He promised he wouldn't hurt me, and that promise came out of nowhere. Then he went into the kitchen to get a drink, supposedly, but I heard him opening drawers in there. He was looking for a knife, of course, but I knew way before that." She pauses. "I guess he wanted a knife because using the gun would be too noisy."

"What makes you think he was concerned about noise?" I ask.

"I don't know." She takes a long pause, gazing off past me, looking back at him in the bedroom. "Oh ... I do know. I get it, I get it. Noise was the thing--that's why he closed the window. That's how I knew."

Since he was dressed and supposedly leaving, he had no other reason to close her window. It was that subtle signal that warned her, but it was fear that gave her the courage to get up without hesitation and follow close behind the man who intended to kill her. She later described a fear so complete that it replaced every feeling in her body. Like an animal hiding inside her, it opened to its full size and stood up using the muscles in her legs. "I had nothing to do with it," she explained. "I was a passenger moving down that hallway."

What she experienced was real fear, not like when we are startled, not like the fear we feel at a movie, or the fear of public speaking. This fear is the powerful ally that says, "Do what I tell you to do." Sometimes, it tells a person to play dead, or to stop breathing, or to run or scream or fight, but to Kelly it said, "Just be quiet and don't doubt me and I'll get you out of here."

Kelly told me she felt new confidence in herself, knowing she had acted on that signal, knowing she had saved her own life"


So Amir, I wouldn't be surprised if there were subtle cues your mind was picking up in your interactions with these women. Things you might have initially preferred to ignore, but perhaps may have been more apparent to others. Again, I'm not discounting the role of the Holy Spirit here. God seems to have given you good intuition (even if it isn't always immediately forthcoming!).

catwoman said...

"I'll not begrudge any woman for having preferences and standards; on the other hand, I also expect the same reciprocity from the women with respect to the men.

If women are not shallow for refusing short or bald or fat men, then men are not shallow for refusing women who do not manage their weight (a common complaint by the men, sometimes a fair one, other times not a fair one)."

Agreed.

Anonymous said...

"The larger issue here, is not whether married people--as a general rule--will get more consideration than singles, although there is no New Testament case for its justification"

Not so much a general rule, but as a general preference, married people will be favored in positions of church leadership. I agree that often the best person for the job might well be single, in which case, it would be wrong (biblically unjustifiable) to discriminate.

Amir Larijani said...

Catwoman: It comes down to testing the spirits.

Personally, I don't accept the premise that all spiritual experiences are from God--as many are not--and I'm very wary of people who say, "I had a word from the Lord!"

I've also had to deal quite a bit with people who thought they had a monopoly on understanding God's will. I've seen churches embark on "building programs", selling them with the ministers telling that "God is telling us to do this", only for those churches to go flat broke under financial strain later.

So (a) I know where the risks are in that arena, and (b) the dangers of speaking presumptuously in God's name are very dangerous.

As for dreams, I almost never accept the premise that a dream is an indicator of soemthing that will come to pass.

On the other hand, when circumstances come down--matching the dream all the way down to the setting, the words, and the outcome--it's kind of hard to deny the case.

As for the women involved, one was living a double life, unbeknownst to me or her parents (both of whom were very good friends of mine).

She would go on to attempt suicide multiple times, have a child out of wedlock, be forced to give up the child for adoption, and undergo multiple shock treatments. She has been a zombie for about 10 years.

13 years ago, she was one of the most stellar members of her church, a volunteer for many charitable causes, and well-regarded by everyone around her. She was a Bible study leader, actively involved in teaching Precept classes.

Today, she's a zombie. Barely a shell of what she used to be.

Anyone who takes joy in her demise would be the sickest of sick people. When she OD'd the first time--which blindsided everyone--I held her mom while she cried for her daughter. I remember her dad--a World War II veteran--literally crying after visiting her in the hospital after her shock treatments.

Next to all of that, her rejecting me was very small potatoes.

Gerv said...

It seems our interactions are a bit of a sideshow :-), but: the Bible does have things to say about looking after the world over which we have been given dominion - lots of stuff in the early chapters of Genesis, for example, is directly relevant.

I again assert that God does not decide that X is a sin and then not tell us about it. If he did, how could you get up in the morning? Or drink a soda? You'd be paralysed by fear of sin. What if God had decided that marrying fat people was a sin, and nobody knew? There'd be a lot of unrepented sin...

The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture (Bible references on request, if you don't agree with this doctrine) tells us that God tells us everything we need to know within its pages. And that must include telling us what is sinful - i.e. what counts as rebellion against his rule, what things he wants us to avoid doing. (To say that there is stuff that God doesn't want us to do doesn't make me a legalist.)

catwoman said...

"I again assert that God does not decide that X is a sin and then not tell us about it. If he did, how could you get up in the morning? Or drink a soda?"

No one has to be paralysed by fear of sin, because we have the cross! And that is also why the scriptures are sufficient.

Gerv said...

I'm sure you're not saying that the cross means that we don't have to worry whether we sin or not (antinomianism), but it does sound a bit like it.

If we do have to worry about sinning - after all, sanctification is growing in godliness, which means less sinning, even if we can never achieve sinlessness in this life - then it makes sense for God to have told us what is sinful. Sin is a serious thing - how could God have not covered the subject fully? Do you think he forgot to mention something? Or do you think he did it deliberately? If so, why?

catwoman said...

Oh, I'm definitely *not* an antinomianist! But I do see how I've worded that might have given you that impression.

Isaiah talks about our righteousness being like "filthy rags", and I think that's an apt description of how even our best actions with our intentions may very well have elements of sin woven into them.

But does the grace of Christ mean that we can sin so that grace abounds even more? No way! But I do think that it is intended to allow us some peace as we go about our lives, that if we seek wisdom through scripture, fellowship and prayer, that we can be confident (but humble) in our walk, without having to "worry" about "beartraps", even if in our inevitable human ignorance we do encounter them from time to time.

As we walk humbly with Christ, there should be a lightness in our step.

The old hymn "Blessed Assurance" comes to mind.

Blogger said...

There is a chance you're qualified for a complimentary $1,000 Amazon Gift Card.