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

Friday, February 20, 2009

How to Drive Men to Porn

Well, Puritan Calvinist has moved to his new blog, and I have followed him to peruse his posts. At the beginning of this week, he posted a wonderful piece on some worrisome comments by Albert Mohler. At issue is the mistaken notion that getting married will help someone get out of porn. Puritan Calvinist rightfully takes issue with this idea.

I'll go one further, though. I think Mohler and others in the Marriage Mandate Movement may actually drive men to porn. I can hear someone retort, "Anakin, how can you say that!? Nowhere do these people tell men to use porn! Just the opposite! Stop putting words in their mouth!" Of course, the marriage mandators are against pornography. That's not the point. The point is that the logical end of their dogma makes men spiritually vulnerable to sexual temptation. I've touched upon this matter before. If you keep telling men that most of them can't live apart from women and be chaste outside of marriage, then what do you suppose men who have no immediate prospects of marriage are going to do??? No good woman in sight? Here come the mouse clicks. Q.E.D.

53 comments:

Ame said...

"At issue is the mistaken notion that getting married will help someone get out of porn."

my ex is a sex addict who, last i knew, had taken it to prostitutes. i spent 2 1/2 years in therapy working thru this and the sexual abuse perpetrated upon me by my dad ... including a six month sexual abuse recovery group.

this point ... or lie ... is sex addiction 101. i've not read any of your links yet, but i can't believe that mohler would believe this to be true. that is general knowledge that sex addicts marry hoping to 'cure' their addiction, only to be disappointed. even my ex stated this to be true.

the deal is ... porn is an addiction. marriage doesn't cure any addiction. can some men dabble in porn here and there in their lives and not get addicted ... i'm guessing they can (i'm not a guy, so i don't know.)

but i do know that the stats for men addicted to porn are higher for those in ministry than the rest of the men. i do know that this seems to be a 'safe' addiction b/c no one has to see you take a drink or drunk or shooting up or inhaling or high. it's an addiction of the mind.

i do know that my ex in laws were so extremely rigid and legalistic that my therapist said they set him up for an addiction to porn. they consider ALL dancing and ALL drinking to be sin. obviously drugs are a sin. the kid couldn't even move his furniture without his parents moving it back. he couldn't breathe the rules were so rigid (no shocker thay hate my guts since i can't follow a rule to save my life!)

i've gotta go take care of little girls having a sleepover ... i'll try to get back to the links.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Hey Ame,

I am very sorry to hear your story. I wish I knew what to say. Pornography is a dangerious thing. Your story and the stories of many other men and women are prefect examples of the devistation that pornography causes.

God Bless,
PuritanCalvinist

Ame said...

Puritan Calvinist - thank you. i'm ... humbled ... that you would even think to say such kind words.

as much as men have been mistreated by the church, i, and others like me, have, too. in a sense, i have found a 'place' out here amongst those who have been mistreated by the church.

i think, in some ways, the church is backpeddaling ... they don't know what to do, so they're grasping at straws. they're thinkin that if they marry them off young, they can eliminate, or at least strongly curb, the rampant porn addiction. but marriage does not curb or cure sex addiction. if anything, it frustrates men (and/or women as women are addicted, too) b/c they discover marriage is NOT the solution.

i can't tell you how many stories i hear of married women who say something like, "he won't touch me, ever. but he gets up in the middle of the night when he thinks i'm asleep, and he slips down to the computer to get his needs met."

***

how sad that the church portrays these single women as poor, holy women who love the lord but whom men won't give the time of day. that demeans the men, and it certainly does absolutely nothing positive for the women, either.

***

i'm sorry, men, that you've been so mistreated by the church. i'm not here to compare whose pain is worse ... yours or mine. but i do know what it feels like to be deeply hurt by the church just because of circumstances beyond my control. what's worst is how my girls feel at church ... but that's another story.

Amir Larijani said...

Ultimately, this smacks at the heart of the Marriage Mandator movement: one of their soft-sell tactics, which actually has Biblical precedent, is the premise that marriage is good for men because it allows for a sexual outlet that God ordained. Moreover, there is Biblical substantiation that sex is indeed a sufficient reason to marry.

While that much is true, porn addiction is a whole different animal. Marriage will not cure that.

Where I think Mohler might be onto something is this: there is a cost--both to society and to individuals--when we push people to marry later in adulthood.

In Biblical times, people generally married early in life, although there are prominent exceptions to this (e.g. Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Boaz).

Early marriage carries the benefit of mitigating the chances of a person engaging in destructive sexual outlets. It won't cure porn addiction, but it may help prevent it from materializing in the first place.

Just as the Mandators are wrong for imposing dogma at a time when we need less and not more of it, the Church ought to look soberly at the counsel they are giving to children and youth and families.

It could be that the Marriage Mandators are part of a larger backlash against a Church culture that is imposing an under-the-radar dogma of "thou shalt marry later".

While I would empathize with the motivations of many of the Mandators--Maken rightfully criticizes this element of church culture--it would be wrong to counter a hideous, insidious dogma with an opposing dogma.

Still, it would be fair for Mohler to clarify himself on this. If he means that marriage will cure porn addiction, then he is seriously mistaken.

On the other hand, if he is suggesting that early marriage might stop porn addiction before it starts, then that line of thinking has Biblical basis.

Ultimately, the Church needs to consider sobering fact: sex drive is a legitimate reason to marry. By denying this fact--shutting down singles who express it--the Church is fomenting all manners of sexual immoralities.

Including porn addiction.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Amir,

Have to disagree with you on this one. Not having a sexual outlet is not the reason why people commit sexual sin. Scripture teaches that the reason why people commit sexual sin [or any other sin for that matter] is because they have a heart that is rebelling against God sexually. Remember that the problem is a lack of self-control. If they would not have the self-control before marriage, then what makes you think that they would have it after marriage?

I believe the church needs to be working on heart issues more and more as the culture gets worse. As I mentioned in my blog post, if we keep doing external things like telling people to just "get married earlier," then we will be doing a great disservice to young people because we won't be addressing the heart of the problem...the state of the heart.

God Bless,
Adam

Anakin Niceguy said...

Amir,

I have to agree with Puritan Calvinist on this one. I've indicated it time and time again .. we don't need sex. There is no biblical basis for the idea that we do.

That is the point of my post: Telling people that they need sex in marriage to avoid sex outside of marriage is setting them up for failure.

Amir Larijani said...

PC/Anakin:

A few things:

(1) I am disappointed to see you two create a red herring out of this. Who is saying that a person "needs" sex?

Using strawman tactics with me is like a dojo-trained black-belt attempting to pick a fight with a street fighter.

You'd do better to stick to the issues at hand.

(2) Both of you are are completely missing the point.

There is adequate Biblical substantiation that one need not aspire to marriage for reasons other reason than sex.

While (I'm assuming) we're all Reform--or close to it--here, I'm not seeing a Biblical requirement that one express marital aspiration in terms of (a) the glories of covenant, or (b) the symbolic representation of Christ's relationship with the Church, or any other element that we would otherwise identify with a Biblical view of marriage.

If an 18-year-old horndog and his 16-year-old pop tart can't keep their hands off each other, telling them, "No...you should not marry. You need to learn to control your lusts first. You really should wait until you're 25," is not a form of advice that has Biblical precedent.

Such advice was never given to such a one in Scripture. Not once.

I'd submit that it is just as dysfunctional as the "marriage mandate".

In contrast, providing counsel that emphasizes the Biblical significance and permanence of marriage might force the horny couple to make a decision: either (a) get married, or (b) get some distance and turn down the heat.

While option (b) may be more ideal, either option is perfectly acceptable.

It is also possible that after such counsel, they may opt for (b) and then fail. In such a case, option (a) is certainly more God-honoring.

Better to marry than to burn...

(3) Sure, a person who struggles with lusts now will also struggle with them as a married person. Unless you are asexual, those struggles are part of life.

(This is why husband and wife are commanded to put out for each other. One also ought to include that as part of the pre-marital counsel. "For better or worse" can be quite sobering indeed...)

On the other hand, Scripture is quite clear about marriage in terms of a sexual outlet. This much is undeniable.

Again, we can haggle all day about what is or isn't more "ideal", but the text is indeed quite clear on this matter: marriage, at least in part, serves as a sexual outlet.

(4) To suggest that pushing late marriage (which many Christian leaders wrongly do, just as many Christian leaders wrongly promote a marriage mandate) does not contribute to porn addiction at the macro level, is pure denial.

While it is fair to say that self-control is at the root of the problem--this is the case with just about all sins--the fact remains that (a) our culture is at least as awash in sex as it was in first century Corinth, (b) the human sex drive has advanced to where, from a physiological standpoint, sexual maturity is happening sooner rather than later, and at the same time (c) our culture--including the Church--is pushing people to marry later and not sooner.

We can haggle all day about the need for self-control, with no disagreement. Still, we must look to Scripture in terms of the appropriate response here:

(a) emphasizing self-control is very Biblical.

(b) so is promoting marriage for the single who proves hormonally exceptional and discipline-challenged.

To teach (b) without (a), or (a) without (b), is a departure from Scripture.

Moreover, to suggest that (a) a culture that pushes singles to marry late, and (b) a Church that excoriates singles who aspire to marry, does not contribute to porn addictions, is like saying the prohibition of marriage among Catholic priests did not contribute to the sex scandals that are now uncovering.

To suggest that this was exclusively a self-control issue is to deny the contributory negligence of the Church in forcing a flatly-unBiblical dogma on their clergy.

Let me leave you with this scenario...

(a) Let's assume that a single person--male or female, doesn't matter--comes to you and expresses the aspiration to marry.

(b) Let's assume that sexual tensions are at or near the top of the list of reasons that person lists as motivations for such aspiration. Heck, sexual tensions could, for all intents and purposes, be the sole motivator.

What is your response?

If you respond with the standard dogma: "Well, you don't need to get married. You just need to learn to control your lusts", then I would suggest that your Biblical underpinnings in this matter are as off-base as Debbie Maken's.

After all, Paul didn't say that to the Corinthians. In fact, he said, to the effect, "On one hand, it's good for a man not to marry. After all, times are very difficult and there are advantages to not marrying. On the other hand, it's better to marry than to burn. If you can't control the hormones, then get married. Just make sure he or she is Christian."

One could suggest that we are in such a culture today. On one hand, with the economic and social climate--even the legal climate--as they are, there are definite advantages to not marrying.

Nor is there some mandate that you must marry.

On the other hand, our culture is at least as awash in sexual immorality as the Corinthian civilization of the First Century.

Ergo, if a single person--for whatever reason--expresses the aspiration to marry, and you deny that with the, "You don't need sex" retort, then you are resorting to exactly the neo-Pharisaical dogma that helped create this morass in the first place.

At the end of the day, it's better to marry than to burn.

Now, back to the original premise: while Mohler would be wrong to assert that marriage is some silver bullet that will somehow cure porn addiction--it isn't and it doesn't--there is plenty of substantiation in Scripture that marriage can head off a lower-grade lust before it delves into a disastrous addiction.

Telling someone, "Well, you just need to learn to control your lusts" to one who aspires to marry, is a form of advice that Paul did not provide anywhere in Scripture. In fact, his advice for such a one was to get married.

That is the advice we find in Scripture.

Neither the "marriage mandate", nor the "learn to control your lusts first then get married" dogma, has Biblical foundation.

Amir Larijani said...

Ame says:
i think, in some ways, the church is backpeddaling ... they don't know what to do, so they're grasping at straws. they're thinkin that if they marry them off young, they can eliminate, or at least strongly curb, the rampant porn addiction.


I think they're grasping for straws on both ends.

On one hand, when a single person (man or woman, doesn't matter) expresses the desire to marry, and sees no options in the church, the pastoral "help" often comes in the form of some spiritualized STFU that utterly denies legitimate aspirations. Singles who pursue marriage sometimes find themselves getting attacked by pastors who insist, "We don't run a dating service here!" (I know of one pastor who bragged about this.)

On the other hand, we have the other extreme, who--as you say--acts as if marriage will somehow cure sexual addiction and make ungodly people somehow become more Godly.

Fact is, if one is an addict--that's completely different from having struggles with otherwise normal drives--then marriage alone cannot cure that. A larger degree of counsel is obviously necessary.

Even then, to tell someone in that position that they ought not marry at all, would not necessarily be good counsel.

In such a case, the better approach is to encourage both--as they marry--to be honest with each other about their drives and struggles, so that they can (a) accommodate each other (as is reasonable), and (b) intercede for each other as the situation demands it.

When a man won't even touch his wife, and yet he has no problem typing with one hand, it's time for some Church discipline. After all, he's impacting both himself and his wife. (Ditto if it's the woman with the addiction, as this trend is increasing.)

but marriage does not curb or cure sex addiction. if anything, it frustrates men (and/or women as women are addicted, too) b/c they discover marriage is NOT the solution.

As I said before, addiction--sex, drugs, anything--is a wholly different animal.

There is a world of difference between a teenage horndog who thinks of sex every 4.2 nanoseconds, versus the man (or woman) who is up to his or her eyeballs in addiction. Even then, that line can be a very thin one.

The pornographic landscape was pretty bad when I was in my teens, but even then it was miniscule compared to today. Back then, most of the porn explosion was due to the advent of the VCR.

You always had one kid in the class who smuggled his dad's Playboy to school. And all the boys--and I DO mean ALL the boys--looked at them. And not for the great articles...

Today, the Internet has blown the porn of my generation out of the water. Even if you are a good parent and have all the good web controls on your computer, you can pretty much count on the premise that your sons and/or daughters will get substantial exposure to porn that would have made the Penthouse of yesteryear look like a Sears catalog.

The increase in addiction is not surprising.

Will early marriage cure an addiction? Certainly not.

Will early marriage head off an addiction? Not if he or she is already addicted.

Can early marriage stop an addiction before it starts? I'd suggest that it can. As long as both husband and wife are vigilant with each other on that front.

But that still comes with a caveat: beware to the wife (husband) who starts turning down her (his) husband (wife). The price of that has gone up a thousandfold.

Even then, both husband and wife can be very faithful and accommodating, and it's still no panacea. That is because even the art of accommodating your spouse is an act of self-control.

(Even the men will attest to how challenging that can be.)

At one point, Dave Ramsey was saying that e-porn was the fastest-growing cause of financial disaster. I don't know if that is the case, but it would not surprise me if it's still up there.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Amir,

Actually, 1 Corinthians 7:8-9 isn't talking about single people at all. It is talking about widows and widowers. Paul is assuming, from verses 2-4 that sexual relations are a marital debt that must be paid. All married couples must have sexual relations.

However, when he gets down to verses 8-9 he is dealing with those [like himself] who have lost their spouse. When someone is regularly having sexual relations, it is easy to see how loosing that spouse would make it difficult in the area of sexual purity. Here you have this natural desire for a spouse who is no longer with you, and no natural way to express that desire. Paul suggests, in such a case, that the person should remarry. However, that has nothing to do with the burning desire that Paul says is "like the heathen who do not know God" [1 Thessalonians 4:5]. That is a result of sin, and is totally unnatural, as Jesus said that anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery in their own heart [Matthew 5:28].

The arguments for widows and widowers being in view in 1 Corinthians 7 are rather complicated, but they are accepted by most experts on 1 Corinthians. Gordon Fee has an excellent section on this in his commentary as does Craig Blomberg and Richard Hays. I did the same research when I was in undergrad at Concordia University Wisconsin, and came to the same conclusions.

Also, I think that the real problem even goes deeper than a lack of self control. It goes to wisdom. Proverbs 2 is a passage I always use, since the beginning tells us to get wisdom, and the rest tells us the purpose for getting that wisdom. One of the reasons to get wisdom [v.2], understanding [v.2], and discretion that will guard you [v.11] is to keep you from the way of the adulteress [v.16]. The book of Proverbs tells us that we will be kept from the way of immorality [v.12-15] if we learn the ways of wisdom. How can all of these things be true if we must get married in order to remain pure?

So, no, I continue to maintain that the problem with pornography is a problem of a lack of wisdom and discernment. Telling people to get married is an external solution to an internal problem. No one should ever be so out of control that they must have sexual relations whether they are dating the other person or not. That is sin. If we were mature enough in wisdom as a church today [such people are very, very, very, very rare today], we would all be able to all delay marriage into our sixties, and yet, never once do any immoral action such as look at pornography.

That is why the main issue has never been delay of marriage. Our culture cannot force us to sin, but it can seduce our desires that are already wicked. That is why we need to learn wisdom and discernment, and why the book of Proverbs stresses it so much.

God Bless,
Adam

Amir Larijani said...

PC: For the record, I'm not disagreeing with what you're saying. I could give you an earful about the lack of attention given to such wonderful books as Proverbs, in most of our fine children and youth curriculum.

All I'm saying is this:

(1) To discourage early marriage is utterly un-biblical, just as pushing early marriage as a mandate is un-Biblical.

To rebuff people who express a desire to marry is not a form of counsel that has Biblical precedent.

(2) To suggest that marrying late (or discouraging marriage altogether) does not contribute to sexual immorality is utter denial.

The Catholics proved that empirically. The Louisville archdiocese--not far from where I live--has literally hundreds of victims who would be happy to give you an earful about the contributory negligence of a Church that imposes dogmatic standards that have no Biblical precedent.

Just about every sin--sexual and non-sexual--has a connection to self-discipline issues.

That said, to rebuff a single person with the "well...if you struggle now, then marriage won't help" mantra, is to be dismissive on a level that has no Biblical basis.

On the other hand, to encourage them to aspire to self-control and discernment--while encouraging their pursuit of marriage--is Biblical.

The premise that marriage does serve as a sexual outlet--while not a cure-all for sexual dysfunction--is indeed a Biblical one. We would hope that one would aspire to marriage for other reasons, but that need not be the case.

(3) There is no mandate to marry. Period. Marriage makes you no more a "real man" than my cats having kittens makes them more feline. (Besides, they've both been fixed.)

(4) There is no mandate to marry late if you choose to marry. If you are 18--I've even seen them younger--and you've found one, then the Church ought not discourage you from getting married, but rather ought to encourage you in that endeavor and provide Biblical counsel.

(5) There is no mandate to marry early if you aspire to it. It is just as un-Biblical to discourage it as it is to mandate it.

(6) There is no mandate that one aspire to marriage for the reasons we all would otherwise consider more ideal.

That 1 Corinthians 7 addresses widows in specificity does not negate the fact that he is dealing with a set of people who are not married and otherwise desire to marry.

If the operative standard of "it's better to marry than to burn" applies to widows, then it would be folly to suggest that it does not apply to the never-married.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Amir,

First, I don't agree that the context of 1 Corinthians 7 can apply to virgins. Paul is addressing a context where Godly sexual relations are known on a regular basis. That is made clear from the previous context [v.2-4]. How is having these *natural* desires that cause you to sin parallel to having these *evil* desires that cause you to sin? The difference is one of having desires for Godly sexual relations that you once had on a regular basis, and the other having ungodly lusts for someone who is not your wife. With widows and widowers, the problem comes from Godly, natural desires that have been short circuited by death. With virgins, the problem comes from ungodly desires that God has forbidden anyone to have before marriage [Matthew 5:28].

Not only that, but Paul is going to specifically address virgins in verses 25ff. He says he has no specific command from the Lord concerning them. Hence, the virgin is not really bound to do anything, marry or remain single, but only to live a life honoring to God.

Second, I am not trying to discourage marriage at all. I believe that it is a noble pursuit, and should be encouraged. I just don't believe that it cannot deal with sin, as a sexual outlet, or otherwise. If you want to deal with out of control sexual desires, the answer has to do with the heart because it is a heart problem. That doesn't mean that you cannot marry, but it does mean that, even in marriage, there is going to be this struggle, and if that struggle is not engaged [no pun intended], you will end up just like Ame's husband and father.

I guess the whole thing really comes down to how you take 1 Corinthians 7. I believe that what we have come down to is, if the phrase "burn with passion" is specifically to be understood in the context of passion from their former marriage, then there is no Biblical precedent for the phrase "The premise that marriage does serve as a sexual outlet--while not a cure-all for sexual dysfunction" and there is Biblical precedent for the phrase, "If you struggle now, marriage won't help." However, if you are right, then it is vise versa. It is that simple.

That is why I feel much safer as an exegete keeping with the context, especially the context of Paul's admonition to married couples to not be celebate [v.2-4], as well as the structure, which keeps Paul's arguments addressing each individual group once.

(2) To suggest that marrying late (or discouraging marriage altogether) does not contribute to sexual immorality is utter denial.

What I am wondering is, does it only seem that way because of our hyper-sexualized culture? I think that it does. We have a culture of people believe that they cannot live without sexual relations, and, while you do not agree with that mentality, I believe it has effected our understanding in this regard. I am just going to scripture, and asking the question as to whether or not this culture is effecting our understanding of these issues, and I believe I am getting the answer "yes."

The Catholics proved that empirically. The Louisville archdiocese--not far from where I live--has literally hundreds of victims who would be happy to give you an earful about the contributory negligence of a Church that imposes dogmatic standards that have no Biblical precedent.

The issue of the preisthood is an issue of taking a *binding vow* to *never* marry. I am totally against that, because desires for the married life are good, and for a person to be unable to pursue them because of an unbiblical vow is wrong. However, that is totally different for how you handle those sexual desires that God has deemed totally inappropriate before marriage.

God Bless,
Adam

Amir Larijani said...

PC: I cannot answer for how they approach this at Trinity, but if you attempted to suggest that the operative standard--"it's better to marry than to burn"--applies to widows but not the never-married, you'd get laughed out of the classroom at Southern.

If it's better for widows to marry than to burn, then it would be folly to suggest that it's better for the never-married to burn than to marry.

I'm sure you don't believe that, but logically that is where you are heading.

This is the problem with you exegetes: occasionally, you lose the forest in the trees.

Moreover, while I agree with your sentiments about the Catholics requiring such binding oaths the larger issue is about the Church imposing a dogmatic standard that has no basis in Scripture.

That is why the "marriage mandate" is wrong.

That is why discouraging early marriage is wrong.

This is why excoriating singles for marrying later is wrong.

This is why rebuffing singles who aspire to marriage--even if they aspirations are expressed in manners that we find less than ideal--is wrong.

When the Church imposes such un-Biblical dogmas, they are negligent--in the contributory sense--in fomenting no small number of disasters.

Kevin in Manila said...

I've been thinking about this post and I'm ready to give my 2 cents.

I have to say I agree more with Amir on this: the lack of a godly sexual outlet can (possibly) lead one to be more vulnerable to porn use/addiction (though it never excuses it).

But I think Mohler has oversimplified the problem, and perhaps confused cause and effect. Does he really think men (especially Christian men) would rather watch porn than pursue a real relationship? I think that is a bit ridiculous.

Mohler seems to be presenting a completely unrealistic scene: churches full of virginal angels (the single women) just waiting for men to get their act together and choose them over porn.

Young men do need to be challenged to live pure lives. But they don't need to be blamed for all of the problems in our dysfunctional society.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Amir,

If it's better for widows to marry than to burn, then it would be folly to suggest that it's better for the never-married to burn than to marry.

That is a logical fallacy. If you are a basketball player, it is better for you to pick up your feet when playing rather than skidding them on the floor. However, does that mean that it is better for a swimmer to skid his feet on the floor rather than picking them up? Well, it is irrelevant to a swimmer, is it not?

I would say that marriage for never marrieds has nothing whatsoever to do with burning with passion because the only reason a single person would be burning with passion is because of sin. While it is true that person dealing with this sin can, indeed, get married, the specific kind of burning will only be able to be dealt with in any way by a growth in wisdom, and in grace. Even a "sexual outlet" such as marriage cannot deal with a problem of the heart caused by sin in any way. That's the point. Burning is relevant to someone who as already been married because he has already been engaging in normal marital sexual relations. It is not relevant to a single person because they only way he could be burning is by sin.

PC: I cannot answer for how they approach this at Trinity, but if you attempted to suggest that the operative standard--"it's better to marry than to burn"--applies to widows but not the never-married, you'd get laughed out of the classroom at Southern.

The answer is that it is not an operative standard in every case. It is not something that is universally true, and you have even said so yourself. If your burning with passion comes from sexual addiction such as pornography, then even you admit that you should not get married because of that burning with passion.

Maybe this would be a better route to go. If you believe that Paul is setting up the phrase "it is better to marry than to burn" as an operative standard to be used for all times, then you are making the positive assertion, and bear the burden of proof. Go into the text of 1 Corinthians 7, and prove that this goes beyond the established context of widows and widowers.

Remember, I didn't just state that I believed it was limited to this context, I went on to prove it. Someone at Southern, or you would then be obligated to refute the arguments that I gave. I mentioned that we are talking specifically in the context of sexual relations being required in marriage [v.2-4], I also mentioned the structure of the text as talking to every group once, and Paul addressing widows and telling them he has nothing to bind upon their contience. It is also worth pointing out that Paul is going to tell virgins to remain as they are. Anyone who wants to refute what I am saying would be obligated to address my points, and show their irrelevance. Mocking them is not an answer.

Also, trust me, given the strange views of Albert Mohler on marriage and children, there are many people here at Trinity who view some of the stuff coming out of Southern Seminary as pretty laughable. However, at Trinity we believe in addressing arguments, both weak and strong, and showing why they are weak or strong. That is something that seems to be missing in the academy today.

God Bless,
Adam

Amir Larijani said...

PC says: That is a logical fallacy. If you are a basketball player, it is better for you to pick up your feet when playing rather than skidding them on the floor. However, does that mean that it is better for a swimmer to skid his feet on the floor rather than picking them up? Well, it is irrelevant to a swimmer, is it not?

To suggest that comparing a swimmer with a basketball player is tantamount to comparing a widow with a never-married single, is itself a logical inconsistency.

Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

In fact, a never-married single and a widow have far more in common with respect to sexual matters, than a swimmer and a basketball player would with respect to athletic requirements.

Again, if the operative standard--it's better to marry than to burn--is good for widows, then it would be folly to suggest that such a standard does not fit the never-married.

Otherwise, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate a Biblical case that it's better for a never-married single to burn than to marry.

Amir Larijani said...

Kevin says:
But I think Mohler has oversimplified the problem, and perhaps confused cause and effect. Does he really think men (especially Christian men) would rather watch porn than pursue a real relationship? I think that is a bit ridiculous.

It's probably ridiculous as a general rule, but there indeed are men (and women) who would rather do porn--or engage in other varieties of sexual immorality--than invest in a marital relationship.

I won't say they're the majority, but they're out there.

Mohler seems to be presenting a completely unrealistic scene: churches full of virginal angels (the single women) just waiting for men to get their act together and choose them over porn.

I agree. Personally, I don't think Mohler believes this. However, there are some matters that he has not completely thought through. He's also sort of disconnected from the singles classes at his own church. I can say this because I was a member there for about 4 years.

He never once stepped foot into those classes, nor asked any of the singles about their experiences.

That doesn't make him evil: in fairness to him, the church is large, and there are any number of ministries there in which he is not aware of the particulars within them.

That said, he might be better-served if he'd ask some of those in the target groups about specific issues before he bloviates about them.

Young men do need to be challenged to live pure lives. But they don't need to be blamed for all of the problems in our dysfunctional society.

Agreed.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Amir,

To suggest that comparing a swimmer with a basketball player is tantamount to comparing a widow with a never-married single, is itself a logical inconsistency.

Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

In fact, a never-married single and a widow have far more in common with respect to sexual matters, than a swimmer and a basketball player would with respect to athletic requirements
.

Amir, do you know what a "logical inconsistency" is? It is saying p and ~p are true at the same time in the same sense. What is being affirmed and denied when I say that there is as much relevance to whether a swimmer picks up his feet or not, as there is to whether a virgin burning with passion gets married or not?

Also, we are not comparing sexual matters in general, but a specific sexual matter: the conditions under which the burning with passion could occur.

For instance, there are many similarities between a swimmer and a basketball player, too. They both need to train, they both need to learn endurance, build muscle etc. However, there is a specific matter in which they are different, namely, one needs to move his feet on dry land, and the other does not.

I am talking about a specific sexual matter in which a widower and a virgin are different, namely, the fact that widowers can have burning with passion as a result of normal sexual desires for a spouse that has already deceased, while a virgin can only burn with passion because of sin. In the case of this specific matter of sexuality, it is night and day between a widower and a virgin.

Again, you are the one stating that we should take "it is better to marry than to burn" beyond the context of widows and widowers. It is you who bear the burden of proof to show, from the text, that this has exegetical warrant. If you cannot, the case for virgins getting married because of "burning with passion" is nonexistent.

God Bless,
Adam

Amir Larijani said...

PC: You are the one who is out of bounds here.

The burden of proof is on you to show that it is better for a single person--never married--to burn than to marry.

It ain't in the Bible, PC. Give it up.

In fact, a widow and a single have far more in common than not--in matters of sexual drives. In fact, the case is quite strong--I would suggest that the empirical evidence is on my side here (Learner can correct me if I'm wrong) that an 18-year-old, never married, has at least the same level of sex drive that a 50-year-old widow has.

You have attempted to define a narrow context by insisting on a distinction that is dubious at best.

By attempting to defend a shoddy thesis--and it is that--you have now painted yourself into the most laughable of corners.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Amir,

The burden of proof is on you to show that it is better for a single person--never married--to burn than to marry.

It ain't in the Bible, PC. Give it up
.

It is amazing how blind tradition can make someone. Amir, you have the burden of proof, and have tried to get around it by a simple logical fallacy [category error] that any first year logic student can recognize. I have shown it by using an analogy to basketball players and swimmers. The standard applies to basketball players, but is irrelevant to swimmers. No response, only totally missing the point of the analogy. I made a distinction, and also argued for it on the basis of scripture [Matthew 5:48].

All I can say is, you had to engage in logical fallacies, shifting of the burden of proof, and I just let the text speak for itself. I am glad I don't have to do that when I argue for a position like this. In fact, if I had to do all that you have, I would have given up a long time ago. When you have to give up the laws of logic, shift the burden of proof, and read things into the text that are not to come for twenty verses yet, I would say that you need to give up, because your position "ain't in the Bible." That is what you call standing on your head to make a text say something it simply does not. I am glad that I would get an F if I ever tried this at Trinity, and hence, I am certainly glad I will probably never be going to Southern Seminary.

God Bless,
Adam

PuritanCalvinist said...

By way of clarification [Amir knows this, but for others may think I am knocking Southern Seminary], I should mention that the real disagreement between Amir and myself is whether they would accept what Amir is doing at Southern. Amir is making logical and exegetical fallicies all over the place, and I can't think of anyone who would justify these things. However, if he wants to paint Southern Seminary as a place that makes these fallicies, then I am just going to say that I am happy as a lark that I get to go to Trinity instead :-).

God Bless,
Adam

Anonymous said...

"I would say that marriage for never marrieds has nothing whatsoever to do with burning with passion because the only reason a single person would be burning with passion is because of sin."


Those words would be more likely to come from the mouth of a pharisee than from Jesus.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Anon,

Those words would be more likely to come from the mouth of a pharisee than from Jesus.

Matthew 5:28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

And, as a matter of fact a [former] Pharasee did say it:

1 Thessalonians 4:4-5 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;

God Bless,
Adam

Anonymous said...

If burning is sin for the unmarried, it is for the widowed.

You seem kind of defensive and insecure, PC. I'm not certain that the burning lust to be right isn't just as much of a sin. Your handling of some of the other posts here is interesting to me.

Just an observation.

Christina said...

PC asked a LONG time ago if our perceived need for sex is a result of hyper-sexualized culture.

Don't know if anyone answered.

But considering how often sexual purity is mentioned in scripture, I'd think that hyper-sexualized culture is not unique to our culture.

And even in sexually-repressed culture, sex can still be an issue.

So really, I think saturation has little to do with our "need".

I'm a woman. For one week out of every month, I have a physical "need" to reproduce.

YES, it is controllable. I'm not an animal, after all, and have been called to demonstrate self-control. I don't go around mewling like a cat in heat. But it is a NEED, none-the-less. And one that God will fulfill in his own time.

I know very few people that actually are completely devoid of that "need" - literally...I refer to them as asexual. Perfectly functioning, but without that need.

That doesn't mean everyone else is a bunch of horn-dogs. It simply means that others who have that need have learned to control it - that doesn't make the need go away, though.

Kinda like controlling the need to eat.

After all, everyone NEEDS to eat - and yet there are old testament laws on fasting for periods of time...controlling that need.

It is simply in the way God created us and there is no shame in it or in recognizing our physical need.

catwoman said...

Amir,

Sincerest kudos to you for an extraordinarily well reasoned chain of responses to PC's recurrent sex-negative pseudo-reformed propoganda.

Nailed it!

Ken said...

I just have to throw in here that I really appreciate the thoughtful discussion here. Most of these comments demand careful consideration, rather than resorting to taunts. This stuff is certainly better than the simple junk we get too much of today.

As for me, I am glad that I am married so that these aren't discussions that apply directly to me, but they will apply to my children. (And let me insert my standard disclaimer that although I am glad I married, I do not think marriage is for everyone, nor would I advise anyone marry without being extremely choosy about their spouse.)

Ken said...

I suppose I should also point out that porn has been around for just about all of human history - technology has made it more prevalent now. I do believe that it generally makes sense to marry later these days than earlier, and that gives someone more time without a sexual outlet, making it more likely that, if they aren't taught how to deal with their sexuality as an umarried person, they will be more likely to use porn, use it more often, or get more extreme in their usage.

We need not denigrate masculinity to discourage this behavior.

While lusting in your heart as Jesus described IS a sin, I think the church reaction these days is unbalanced.

Learner said...

In fact, the case is quite strong--I would suggest that the empirical evidence is on my side here (Learner can correct me if I'm wrong) that an 18-year-old, never married, has at least the same level of sex drive that a 50-year-old widow has.

Well, if you are referring to research on the subject, I can neither confirm nor deny your assertion Amir. However, I can personally attest that my sex drive as a 42 year old unmarried woman is much stronger than when I was an 18 year old unmarried woman. I can also say that PC's contention that a widow may struggle more with sexual temptation than a virgin because of what they had already experienced sexually makes sense to me. I don't know about anyone else, but I can definately say that the longing for something as simple as kissing was much greater for me after I had actually done some kissin', than before. It isn't hard to imagine that someone's longing for sexual intimacy would be greater if it was something that they had already experienced. I have had friends who were widowed or divorced who would attest to that.

That being said I do think it is possible for a single person who is a virgin to struggle with sexual temptation (to burn) without sin because sexual desire is a natural physiological drive that will occur without sin.

I am curious about this exchange between PC and Amir because my previous perception of 1 Cor 7 was similar to what Amir is asserting, that the "it is better to marry than to burn" applies to single people in general. However after reading what PC wrote and referring back to the passage I am questioning that perception some what. It does appear that the context of "better to marry than to burn" is referring to those who are widowed in 1 Cor 7. Amir, for the non-theologically trained such as myself, would you explain how you think the passage refers to all singles?

Amir Larijani said...

Learner asks:Amir, for the non-theologically trained such as myself, would you explain how you think the passage refers to all singles?

This is hardly a deep theological issue.

If it is better for a widow to marry than to burn, then it would be folly to suggest that it is better for a single--never married--to burn than to marry.

The latter is not a form of counsel that has ANY Biblical precdedence. At all. If you can provide the chapter and verse where such advice is EVER given to one never married, the debate would be over. And decisively.

On the other hand, as I have pointed out, there is sufficient Biblical precedent for one who marries only with sex on his mind. I have pointed out Jacob..."Let me have my wife, so I can go in to her."

(Imagine a groom saying THAT to a potential father-in-law today? LOL)

To suggest that comparing singles with widows is tantamount to comparing basketball players and swimmers, is ludicrous.

Moreover, who do you think those widows would be marrying? More than likely, those who were never-married! That's demographic reality.

No one here is saying that singles (never-married, widowed, doesn['t matter) ought not pursue self-control and learn to control their lusts, or even practice discernment with respect to relationships. (The same is also true for those who are married, as the prevalence of adultery suggests.)

On the other hand, the operative principle of it being better to marry than to burn is perfectly applicable to widows and the never-married.

To suggest otherwise is nothing more than Pharisaic circle-jerkery. Such counsel has no Biblical precedent.

Finally, I'm not letting PC off the hook here. He says, "Our culture cannot force us to sin, but it can seduce our desires that are already wicked."

If that is the case, then Anakin does not have a leg to stand on either. If culture cannot force us to sin, then pushing early marriage has no more connection to porn addiction than pushing late marriage.

The empirical data is on my side here: pushing those who are sexually inclined to burn and not marry, leads to a morass of problems. Like I said, the Catholics proved it.

noseintheair said...

Anakin is right: Holiness comes from a circumcised heart, not rules the circumscribe "bad" behavior (like not being married, or ...um..going on a date). The goal in Christian discipleship is to make people followers of God, not followers of rules. Only God can do this in the heart, though. It is bass-awkward to try any other way, and the Sovereign Grace ministries types and their ilk seem destined to ride this tiger of "churchiness" vs. "godliness" until it dies of exhaustion. I was in a local protestant Russian church some weeks back and saw the high babushka-to-non babushka ratio. That's what's coming to the church here save for another awaking that recognizes and honors men as a natural fruit that comes from loving God,who also loves men.

Amir Larijani said...

1 Corinthians 7:1-9 (NASB), emphasis added...

Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.

But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.

The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.

The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

:::::Note: So far, we have a pretty substantial case for marriage as a sexual outlet--and he even lists the immoralities as a reason for people to marry--and so far he is addressing more than mere widows.:::::

But this I say by way of concession, not of command.

:::::Note: So much for mandates.:::::

Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.

But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.

But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

------
He's speaking to both the unmarried and to widows.

Go to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

Fighting dogma with dogma is a loser 100% of the time.

Debbie Maken has made that mistake, and you are also making it.

Learner said...

Amir,

LOL, my eyes skimmed right over that "unmarried and to widows" part. Thanks, that is a clear answer based in scripture.

catwoman said...

Amir,

You're on a roll, man! Thank you. 1 Cor 7:8-9 has never been unanimously regarded by theologians as a "strictly for widows" proposition. PC, as usual, has been exaggerating his claims.

Amir Larijani said...

Catwoman: the moral of the story is this: when all else fails, read the manual.

The problem in seminaries--and trust me: this goes on at all the good ones like Southern and Trinity--is that it is easy to devolve into arguments over what this commentator said or what that commentator said or what this or that theologian said.

What ends up getting lost is what does Scripture say.

I'm not knocking Bloomberg or Mohler or PC. I've got some Bloomberg commentaries, and have used them in exegetical papers. I know Mohler. He can hold his own with almost anyone.

Trouble is, PC is right on some levels--there is an utter lack of education and discipleship, and that is contributing severely to this problem--but that discipleship gap, as true as it is, does not negate the reality of what Paul articulated in 1 Corinthians 7, irrespective of how that passage has been abused by Mandators.

Jesus didn't get bogged down in the circlejerkery of His day (such as the debate between Hillel and Shammai over divorce). He simply referred to what Scripture says.

Moreover, the fact that one group of people--such as the Mandators--will use a passage of Scripture to browbeat singles into marrying, does not make a case for the revisitation of the meaning of the passage, but rather the abuse of the legitimate meaning by the group that has the agenda.

Make no mistake: this passage is a warning to the mandator types.

Still the passage speaks to several issues,

(a) It is a warning against mandators. If Paul does not speak in terms of commands--but rather concession--then who are the Mandators to speak in anything higher than concession?

(b) Self-control issues are a valid reason to marry. This is the case for singles and widows.

(c) the pervasiveness of immorality is given as a reason for the recommendation of marriage. That culture cannot "force" us to sin is true, but irrelevant.

We are not under force to marry--shame on the Gestapo tactics of many church leaders--but there is a significant recommendation for those who are hormonally-challenged.

(d) Even marriage has its challenges in that arena: Paul clearly had to speak against husbands and wives depriving each other in the marriage bed.

Still, marriage will not cure sexual addiction. Addiction is a whole different animal.

Can marriage help? Yes. But it is no guarantee that a person will progress from less to more maturity with respect to addictions. It is no panacea.

Adam T. said...

I've just read through this entire thread, and I have two things to say:

Firstly, PC - you've got to realize that your view on 1 Cor 7 is highly... rare, to say the least. Paul is only talking to widows? Paul was a widower??!? I'm going to need a much, much-expanded argument before I'll buy this. I've never even heard of this before.

Anyway, I was disappointed that the thread turned into that discussion, because what I'm frankly more interested in is this:

"well...if you struggle now, then marriage won't help"

I've heard this before, and I have never understood how it can be true.

Adam T. said...

(Of course, I'm talking about normal desires and not full-blown addictions.)

Amir Larijani said...

Referring to the counsel often given to singles who aspire to marry, and who cite sex at or near the top of the list of reasons: "well...if you struggle now, then marriage won't help."

Adam T asks: I've heard this before, and I have never understood how it can be true. (Note: he qualified the question by excluding addictions.)

According to Scripture, it can't be. Personally, I think they get the counsel mixed up.

The more proper counsel is that, "Marriage can help you in this department, but it will not be a cure-all. Lust will always be a battle you will have to fight. As you pursue marriage--which is a good thing--you need to keep a sober head about this fact."

Of course, for the couple who cannot keep their hands off the table, Christina has the appropriate counsel: "He or she needs to get on top of the marital situation."

I still laugh when recalling that one-liner.

Christina said...

Amir:

Lol.

Happy to oblige =p

Adam T. said...

Christina has the appropriate counsel: "He or she needs to get on top of the marital situation."

Happy to oblige =p

TMI

LadyElaine said...

hmmm...so if Christians getting married for sex is ok, then will the same reason (steady supply of sex) be good enough to stay married?

patrick kelly said...

"hmmm...so if Christians getting married for sex is ok, then will the same reason (steady supply of sex) be good enough to stay married?"

Without giving TMI about 25 years of marriage, I would say that a steady supply probably indicates alot of other good reasons for staying married.

I have yet to hear of anyone getting divorced because they had a great, steady supply, but everything else was lousy. I just don't think that happens.

Kevin in Manila said...

Adam T,

Paul identifies himself with the "unmarried" and "widows" (vs. 8). The unmarried here implies someone who was once married an is no longer married. Note that he addresses the never-been-married ("virgins") in verse 25.

PC is correct--Paul was most likely married at one time (we can't say definitively, but it is what best matches the text).

PC is also correct that Paul's "better to marry than to burn" was addressed to those who had been married before (widows and unmarried).

HOWEVER, I believe the "better to marry than burn with passion" is a universal principle. To say otherwise is, in my opinion, missing the basic principles of 1 Cor 7 (and the whole Bible).

For example, Paul also instructs widows to only marry other Christians (vs. 39). It would be a bit foolish to say this only applies to widows.

Adam T. said...

The unmarried here implies someone who was once married an is no longer married

No; the way the sentence is structured - at least in English - implies precisely the opposite: that the "unmarried" are different people than the "widows". If "widow" and "unmarried" were synonymous, then the word "unmarried" would've been redundant.

The only way I will buy this idea is if someone can show me that the sentence in the original Greek carries a different implication.

Kevin in Manila said...

The term unmarried (agamos, from “wedding, or marriage,” with the negative prefix a) is used only four times in the New Testament, and all four are in this chapter. We need go nowhere else for understanding of this key term. Verse 32 uses it in a way that gives little hint as to its specific meaning; it simply refers to a person who is not married. Verse 34 uses it more definitively: “the woman who is unmarried, and the virgin.” We assume Paul has two distinct groups in mind: whoever the unmarried are, they are not virgins. Verse 8 speaks to “the unmarried and to widows,” so we can conclude that the unmarried are not widows. The clearest insight comes in the use of the term in verses 10 and 11: “the wife should not leave [divorce] her husband (but if she does leave, let her remain unmarried.…).”The term unmarried indicates those who were previously married, but are not widows; people who are now single, but are not virgins. The unmarried woman, therefore, is a divorced woman

MacArthur's NT Commentary

Kevin in Manila said...

I must confess I was also a bit surprised when I first read this (while preparing for a sermon).

But it makes more sense to me than any other interpretation of this passage.

Amir Larijani said...

Kevin: MacArthur is off his rocker on this one. If one is not married, there are three possibilities:

(a) that person has never been married
(b) that person is divorced
(c) that person is widowed.

Given that Jesus was quite clear about divorce and remarriage, classifying remarriage--with the exception of divorce due to sexual immorality--as adultery, it would be ludicrous to assert that this passage EXCLUDES the never-married.

That is the most laughable exposition of this passage that I have ever read, and that ranks almost as badly as MacArthur's attempt to spin the alcohol consumption debate--in a sermon I once heard--by trying to make the case that Jesus drank grape juice.

MacArthur is a good guy...I prefer expository preachers--they are better than the suppository types--but Mac occasionally flops.

This was a flopper.

Amir Larijani said...

Kevin says: HOWEVER, I believe the "better to marry than burn with passion" is a universal principle. To say otherwise is, in my opinion, missing the basic principles of 1 Cor 7 (and the whole Bible).

For example, Paul also instructs widows to only marry other Christians (vs. 39). It would be a bit foolish to say this only applies to widows.


Minus the "HOWEVER", I agree.

Anonymous said...

Women need to stop rejecting average men ... then there would be plenty of marriages.

Anonymous said...

"Verse 34 uses it more definitively: 'the woman who is unmarried, and the virgin'."

This is a typo. Verse 34 reads: "the woman who is MARRIED, and the virgin"

Kevin in Manila said...

Amir,

I'm sure there were those coming to Christ who had been married and were no longer married. I doubt Paul would have told them to go back and find their pagan spouses if they had long since been separated.

And I think it makes sense to believe Paul was married at one time--I doubt he would have achieved his previous religious status as a bachelor (possible, but not probable).

We must also consider the fact that Roman society had more than one type of marriage. Some of those in the church had been in what we would now call "common-law" marriages but were now "unmarried."

I think it's noteworthy that Paul mentions "virgins" later in the chapter. Why mention them if he's already cover their situation? Seems to me there is a distinction between the "unmarried" and the "never-been-married."

We can agree to disagree on this, but I think Mac is onto something with this interpretation. And no, I don't agree with Mac on everything.

Regardless, we agree that the "better to marry than to burn" is better understood as a universal biblical principle.

I second what one of the other posters said--this has been a substantive discussion--more so than many I've come across.

Amir Larijani said...

Kevin: That's not the point. At the end of the day, MacArthur's approach to this text is being provided as a prima facie case for people holding singles hostage.

We've already had at least one person on this thread who has used MacArthur's logic to suggest that the "better to marry than to burn" principle does not apply to the never-married.

Moreover, the fact that Paul addresses "virgins" later on in the chapter means nothing; he also addresses "widows" and the divorced later on in the chapter as well. (He provides no license, by the way, for the divorced to remarry, and provides no latitude for remarriage that Jesus did not provide.)

Like I said, given that (a) Paul was speaking under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, (b) we have very clear and pointed teachings from Jesus with respect to divorce and remarriage, and (c) the fact that this passage refers to widows and the "unmarried", it is utterly ludicrous to infer that Paul is excluding the never-married.

I would also suggest that what you see at the beginning of the chapter--addressing the widows and never-married--is a provision of general principles whereas later on in the chapter he addresses singles in particular groups (widows, virgins, even divorcees).

That's a much more logical flow--and everything I am suggesting on this matter is consistent with what Jesus taught regarding marriage and divorce as well as what the OT taught about marriage in terms of roles and responsibilities.

MacArthur blew it on this one.

Anonymous said...

Dear Moderator,

Out of curiosity, I clicked Desert's link, thinking it some kind of video going along with the discussion, but instead it is a porn site.

You'll probably want to delete it

Kevin in Manila said...

Amir,

Though I disagree with you on Mac's exegesis, I agree with on this: the text should not be used to "hold singles hostage." It is better to marry than to burn--this applies to all who are unmarried (widowed, never-been-married, etc).

Blessings and thanks for the discussion.