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

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Selfish Singles? (An Exegetical Challenge)

Back in November of last year, Albert Mohler discussed the delay of marriage on his radio program. His remarks were in line with his previous statements about immature men, the cultural problems associated with people putting off marriage and family, and his insistence that God mandates that most people get married. The radio broadcast in question was the subject of an earlier post of mine regarding Puritan Calvinist's on-air exchange with Mohler. However, I want to revisit Mohler's comments for another reason.

Over the Christmas break, I mulled over the broadcast. I thought about the seeming insistence by Mohler and others that the only acceptable form of indefinite singleness is one which not only entails celibacy, but one that is singularly devoted to active ministry. Short of insisting on poverty, marriage mandators seem to demand that a confirmed bachelor live like a monk. It makes me wonder if their concept of celibacy and singleness is more rooted in the heritage of Roman Catholicism and it long shadow over Protestantism than it is in the Bible.

But let's suppose the marriage mandators' views of the single lifestyle are more a matter of exegesis than a matter of religious tradition. A particular argument that I often come across can be stated like this: "With regard to the decision to marry, the Bible only holds out two choices to people. You get married, or you stay single to serve the Lord in some demanding way that takes up all your time. The Bible doesn't say anything about the single man who wants more time for his hobbies."

The individuals making this argument may point to passages such as 1 Cor. 7:35. They may think the phrase "without distraction" precludes a lot of spare time for recreational pursuits (I am thinking about Candice Watters' take on 1 Cor. 7:35 in her book Get Married.). Of course, the immediate context of the phrase "without distraction" points back to 1 Cor. 7:32-34 (i.e., married life), not to all the pet scapegoats of the marriage mandate crowd. And I might ask, why aren't married people asked to give up their spare leisure time? If the only choices are minister or make babies, shouldn't everyone have to sacrifice their pleasures?

But anyway, let us grant the argument that with respect to the Bible, there is no mention or no anticipation of the man whose primary motivation for being single is to avoid the cares of married life. Granted, it means we must contradict Paul who wanted people to be "without care" (1 Cor. 7:32) and who left the choice marry up to individuals. (1 Cor. 7:35-40). In the case, the marriage mandator might say, "Forget what Paul said! Most people are to be with the cares of married life. It is required and there is no choice in this matter." But, nonetheless, I am still willing to consider the argument raised by marriage mandators.

For the sake of this discussion, consider Eph. 4:28, where it is written: "The thief must no longer steal but must work hard and do what is good with his own hands, so that he might earn something to give to the needy." This passage tells us that one purpose for earning income is to give to the poor. Now, in 1 Tim. 6:17, it says that God gives us everything for our enjoyment, but it also tells rich people to not trust in their riches. Furthermore, there is no mention in 1 Timothy of the luxuries and entertainments the our modern, affluent lifestyles can afford.

What if I were to tell you that Christians need to give up their nice houses, their nice cars, their home entertainment systems, their social outings at restaurants and theaters, etc.? What if I were to tell you that there is no scriptural authority for these things because the New Testament doesn't mention them? What if I were to say that what God "gives us to enjoy" may not be very much materially? What if I were to point to the horrible sins of materialism as a rationale for demanding an equalization of assets between rich and poor Christians? What if I were to say there are only two choices: (1) be poor, or (2) work for the sake of giving all your surplus income to the poor? What if I were to say my views are mandatory and are what Christians are supposed to believe?

It's a pretty strict application of Eph. 4:28 and 1 Tim. 6:17, isn't it? Hey, I didn't even bring in Acts. 2:45! Do you think my hypothetical reading of the passages in question ignores the context, historical setting, and primary intent of these passages? Is my exegesis marred by a wooden literalism? Does my argument depend too much on the argument from silence? Do you think I would be going too far to expand my reading into some sort of narrow rule for how Christians should live today? Would you write me off as some bleeding heart liberal or Marxist? Would the ghost of David Chilton rise to pan my writings the way he did Ron Sider?

Here's my point: I took the same exegetical approach to the Scriptures regarding rich people and their money as is often done regarding single people and their time. Let's be consistent (Matt. 7:2; James 2:1). If we are going to develop some strict, Pharisaical midrash about what singles do in their spare moments, let's clamp down on the discretionary income of middle-class and wealthy Christians.

To the Focus on the Family crowd, I ask the following: If single people having too much spare time for hobbies is a problem, then is James Dobson willing to sell off a good chunk of his material assets to help the poor? According to one source, Dr. Dobson's holdings in personal real estate exceed a million dollars.

What about Albert Mohler? Yes, let's get back to him. I suspect that he is able to live where he does, courtesy of Southern Seminary and the SBC. But come on, does a Christian really need to live in a house like the one he lives in? From the pictures I've seen, it looks pretty nice, to put it mildly.

Needless to say, the gauntlet has been thrown down on this issue. I think some people to put their "money where their mouth is" if you catch my drift.

54 comments:

Christina said...

You know, your increasingly bitter rants do little for you.

I have three questions for you:

First, why do you think "hobbies" are not a God-honoring pursuit?

Second, if they weren't God-honoring pursuits, why would you consider them worth pursuing?

Third, why do you think you're entitled to spend God's time in any way you want, regardless of purpose?

I hate it that you read SO much into what people say that you miss their point. People aren't perfect with their words. And even if they were, there are far more people who will misinterpret than will actually interpret according to the speaker's purpose.

As you have so aptly demonstrated.

patrick kelly said...


"If we are going to develop some strict, Pharisaical midrash about what singles do in their spare moments, let's clamp down on the discretionary income of middle-class and wealthy Christians."


There is alot of room to move in that direction. If people are accountable to others for their "singleness" I see no reason why it shouldn't apply to the rest of whatever "lifestyle" they choose.

Elusive Wapiti said...

Hmm.

I don't like it that the marriage mandaters attempt to guilt men into marrying. Particularly in this day and age when so many men and women are straight-up unworthy of marriage. That they use scripture to do so is sinful IMHO.

Is marriage a good thing? Under normal circumstances, yes. Under present circumstances, it can go either way. Certainly it is good for women and children. For men, well modern marriage is a crap shoot that brings ruin just as often as it brings blessing.

I have difficulty interpreting scripture as a mandate for men and women to marry. Encourage, yes, mandate no. The argument of the marriage mandate set doesn't persuade me.

Ame said...

i continually find it amusing how much of our humanity is a paradox. i don't think any of us can escape this reality of our depravity ... though i am not using it to excuse the likes of those you mention.

for example, many years ago i was sitting in a married's ss class with my then-husband. a couple in the class was commenting on how their son was shocked to see beer in their neighbor's fridge b/c they would NEVER have such a thing in their home - how sinful!

a few weeks later we were discussing halloween, and this same couple had absolutely no problems with anything about halloween. i was shocked ... they chose halloween over beer? first of all ... stupid! second ... that's foolish, imo.

you are right, and right again. unfortunately, this kind of paradox will continue to plague humanity until Jesus ends this place and we're split btw heaven and hell. that does not excuse them ... and it's sad when such christians are so hard on each other.

***

to more directly answer your statement, i daresay that any preacher would never ask the wealthy of his church not to be wealthy ... or not to live in such nice homes and own such nice stuff and do such nice things ... which, in and of themselves are not wrong.

i think we will all be very surprised when we stand before Jesus, and He shows us our life, and we see what is burned up and what He deems worthy.

i have had much, and i have had little, and i have learned to be content with whatever i have, where ever i am, whatever circumstances i find myself in. and it's never easy.

i'm not a fan of the marriage mandaters ... and i am not a fan of those who believe babies are a required by-product of sex in marriage. i do see that they are so fueled by each other that, more than likely, it will only be God who opens their eyes. unfortunately, they are hurting a lot of innocent people along the way.

may God give you grace and direction. may all your motivation be from Him, alone. may your anger be used to fuel you to accomplish what God desires for you ... and then let go.

Learner said...

Like most university presidents, the house Mohler lives in is likely the property of the seminary and not his. That being said, I think this is a fine piece of satire a la Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal

Amir Larijani said...

Actually, I think Anakin makes a pretty good point, although he takes a while to get there.

I would not classify it as a bitter rant, although at first I started to get that impression.

Ultimately, he is merely applying the same logic of the Mandators to prominent Christian leaders--who are materially wealthy--with respect to material issues.

While I cannot answer for Dobson, I can attest to the fact that Mohler is very well-compensated, as his salary is in the 6-figure range. His living accomodations are provided by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also makes good money as an author and speaker.

Now personally, I have no qualms at all with any of that. I know how hard he works; he earns every darn nickel he makes. He's a very accomplished theologian who writes extensively, engages modern culture, and helps run a very prominent Seminary.

Still, Jesus warned others that whatever standard that they use to judge others, will be used to judge them.

Mohler has applied a very narrow exegetical framework to harshly judge singles. If one applies his exegetical framework to matters of materialism, he stands even more condemned than any single man over age 25.

At the end of the day, Anakin is merely demonstrating the absurdity of the Mandator framework.

Gerv said...

I've normally heard this position argued much more on the basis of Matthew 19 than of 1 Cor 7:35 - i.e. the idea that Jesus' 3 statements about eunuchs are laying out the options for someone who is choosing not to get married. How does that passage factor into your thinking?

PuritanCalvinist said...

Gerv,

i.e. the idea that Jesus' 3 statements about eunuchs are laying out the options for someone who is choosing not to get married.

What to you mean by "not to get married?" Do you mean to never marry, or to not be married right now?

The second question is where this idea that "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven" means "gospel service" comes from. There is nothing in the text that even begins to suggest it. At very least, given that this comes after Jesus' discourse about divorce, it seems to me that this is simply referring to the fact that we must live our lives following after God, to glorify him, and to help his people rather than following after the hardness of our hearts if we are going to remain unmarried. However, that is nothing different than what is required of married people as well. The point is that we must not use either marriage or singleness to rebel against God because of the hardness of our heart, but rather, to serve him, and serve others. Whether we live a life of singleness or marriage, that is the goal.

God Bless,
Adam

Anonymous said...

"...live our lives following after God, to glorify him, and to help his people..."

If this isn't describing kingdom service, I don't know what would.

"Eunuch" would mean "never marry", since, erhm...that condition would be kind of, well, permanent.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Anon,

"Eunuch" would mean "never marry", since, erhm...that condition would be kind of, well, permanent.

I would agree, and hence, it is irrelevant to those who would only like to remain single for a season.

If this isn't describing kingdom service, I don't know what would.

I agree, and that is why I said that the kingdom service is not uniquely for people who decide to never marry, but for those who decide to marry as well, since, whether your are single or married, you are commanded to "live our lives following after God, to glorify him, and to help his people."

God Bless,
Adam

Gerv said...

What to you mean by "not to get married?" Do you mean to never marry, or to not be married right now?

I believe their understanding is "to not be seeking marriage".

At very least, given that this comes after Jesus' discourse about divorce, it seems to me that this is simply referring to the fact that we must live our lives following after God, to glorify him, and to help his people rather than following after the hardness of our hearts if we are going to remain unmarried. However, that is nothing different than what is required of married people as well.

Your last sentence is one reason why the suggestion that it just means "live our lives following after God" is therefore unlikely. Why would he make the point that way if it applied equally to everyone? He has to be talking about something specific to the unmarried state. Also, your interpretation suggests that people who were born eunuchs or made eunuchs (the other two categories) don't have to "live [their] lives following after God" - otherwise, why the distinction?

Christina said...

Given Adam's distinction of "permanently single" vs "single for a season", I'm having trouble understanding what is being argued.

I've been under the impression that Anakin argues from the perspective of "permanently single". I kinda knew/know Adam comes from the "single for a season" mindset - But he was PURPOSELY single for a season.

Meaning, he wasn't just floating around, meandering through life, waiting for that elusive moment of 'readiness'...which most guys I know with the "season" mentality do. I know this because I straight up asked him on Boundless one time =/

And if that's the case with Anakin as well, his arguments for his hobbies make me inclined to think he falls into the latter group rather than the Adam group.

Kevin once asked me what I think a man who wishes to be married SOMEDAY should be doing to prepare for married life. And I still strongly believe that if a man desires to be married SOMEDAY and to remain single simply for a "season", he should be actively pursuing a life that is conducive to marriage.

Honing skills and such that cater to the kind of married life he desires would be a good use of time during that "season" of singleness.

Kinda like a woman should who desires to be married and a SAHM (i.e. not pursuing $30K in debt-mired degrees...yes speaking to the choir).

But the argument here seems to be - "leave me alone to do whatever the hell I want to do and don't you dare call me selfish until you throw away all your wealth!"

I don't know. I could be wrong (probably am), that's just how I perceive the argument.

patrick kelly said...

"But the argument here seems to be - "leave me alone to do whatever the hell I want to do and don't you dare call me selfish until you throw away all your wealth!"
"


I can empathize with that. After all, the "marriage mandaters" also seem to be mandating preparation for marriage involving total materialistic persuit of wealth and status in order to be worth of a bride.

Yes, a bit of an exageration, but it's not just the marriage mandaters. It's post-modern western culture, especially in the US.

The un-spoken rule is that people who marry and have kids without first achieving a certain level of material comfort are somehow irresponsible, un-wise or un-christian. Seems obvious to me this emphasis is not promoted in the NT scriptures, but somehow people manage to twist them to state as much.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Gerv,

I believe their understanding is "to not be seeking marriage".

The problem is, as was just pointed out, that is not part of the context. The context is not talking about those who are not seeking marriage, but those who never intend to marry. That is the point of the parallel with the eunich. A eunich cannot seek marriage now or ever, and thus, a eunich for the sake of the kingdom of God is someone who intends to never seek marriage, not now or ever.

Your last sentence is one reason why the suggestion that it just means "live our lives following after God" is therefore unlikely. Why would he make the point that way if it applied equally to everyone? He has to be talking about something specific to the unmarried state.

No, because he already chided the pharasees for living in marriage [something to which one volitionally enters] out of the hardness of their hearts, divorcing and remarrying at will. Hence, he would simply be saying that, whether you choose to remain single your whole life, or whether you choose to marry, you still must live it "for the sake of the kingdom of God," and not out of the hardness of your heart.

The reason why he points it out for the third kind of eunich is because they are the only group that has become eunichs volitionally. The other two groups are not in the state that they are in by volition, but rather, by birth, or by the act of another man. Thus, Jesus would then be saying that whether you choose to marry or never marry, you must do it without hardness of heart, for the sake of the kingdom of God.

Also, your interpretation suggests that people who were born eunuchs or made eunuchs (the other two categories) don't have to "live [their] lives following after God" - otherwise, why the distinction?

Again, because the other two of kinds of unichs mentioned are not volitionally eunichs, and the third kind is. The context of Jesus' statement is how it is that one is *made* a "eunich." Notice the reflexive pronoun "made themselves eunichs for the sake of the kingdom of God." Here, Jesus is talking about the purpose for them making themselves eunichs. The reason why he only mentions it with the one group is because that is the only group that has [and can] volitionally put themselves in that category.

I would liken your argument to the argument that Jehovah's Witnesses make from John 17:3:

John 17:3 "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

Jehovah's Witnesses argue that, since Jesus calls the father the "one true God," he therefore cannot be the one true God. No, all Jesus is doing here is highlighting the fact that the father is the one true God, and he does not say anything about his own status as deity. In the same way, Jesus is addressing the *reason* for people becoming eunichs, and the reason why some people decide to be "eunichs" volitionally is because of the fact that they believe they can serve God better in that state.

God Bless,
Adam

Anonymous said...

"Hence, he would simply be saying that, whether you choose to remain single your whole life, or whether you choose to marry, you still must live it "for the sake of the kingdom of God,".................................... and not out of the hardness of your heart."

Great. Now you've gone and shot Anakin's raison d'etre all to hell.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Anon,

Great. Now you've gone and shot Anakin's raison d'etre all to hell.

Why? I don't think there is a Christian alive who says that we should not live our lives for God and for others no matter what state we are in. That is what Paul means when he tells us that, no matter whether we eat, drink, or whatever we do, we are to do it all to the glory of God.

I think that what Anakin is concerned about is the fact that people are being told how they must serve God in every situation, and that is looking for a spouse, and getting married. That is simply unbiblical. It may be that you can serve God in a celebate state, and it may be that you can serve God for a season as a single person, and then serve God as a married person later on in life. It all depends upon the gifts God has given you, and the way in which we are called to serve him.

I think what Anakin and I are concerned about is, forcing roles upon people that are unscriptural. God can use anyone from any walk of life, and he does not require either celebacy or marriage, but only obedience to him wherever he leads, whether it be a season of singleness, lifelong celebacy, or marriage.

God Bless,
Adam

Anonymous said...
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Christina said...

Anon,

After posting my last comment, I walked away realizing that I never stated why that argument really bothers me.

I feel like the argument is coming in a similar form as what you would find between two siblings who are fighting and kicking eachother.

The mother tells one to stop and scolds him soundly but his retort back to her is that "He's kicking ME!" And refuses to acknowledge his mother's point and take responsibility for HIS action until his brother's actions are addressed as well.

Her response is "I'm talking to YOU right now, not your brother. And what YOU were doing is wrong."

Its very possible that the dilemma that Anakin finds himself in is one of his own choosing. If he were to go to any Assembly of God that I had gone to when I was in High School, he would have heard the "give your wealth away" think preached every sunday. Most people I know don't want to think their church is scamming them out of money, so they opt to stay away from churches that preach nearly to exclusion of everything else TITHING.

So they may end up in a church that preaches overly much on a different subject. Anakin could always choose to attend one of the major tithing preaching churches. He chooses not to probably because he finds something more wrong with THEIR theology than he does with the ones preaching this - this is an slightly more tolerable mis-teaching than the other - perhaps.

Point is, he has likely isolated himself from hearing the "give away your wealth" sermon ad nauseum.

*********

Your other point concerning the preaching accumulation of wealth prior to marriage -

I have to say that is a Catch 22. You see, the same people who are preaching that (Mohler and the Watters...I won't necessarily call them "mandators") also preach to the young women the SAHM mindset.

So, in their opinion, the IDEAL marriage than any man and woman should want is one where the woman stays home with the children (which their should be some to some degree) and the husband works to support them.

In which case, the man should be pursuing a life conducive to providing for a family if he plans on marrying in the future.

I, however, would disagree that they think the man should already have a nice sized nest egg prior to marriage, though. They do too much preaching of getting married young to be of that mindset.

I would think, though, that they would expect (whether rightly or not) that the man who desires a SAHM would pursue the skills and experience necessary to provide for one.

AND, it does make sense that if a man DOES want to marry SOMEDAY and he DOES want a traditional family (i'm not saying you guys do/don't), then it would be wise of him to ensure he is capable of providing for one.

Just like I should have been more aware of the consequences of my degree when I knew the entire time that I wanted to be a SAHM. (Though in my defense, by the end of college I was thoroughly convinced I'd be single for the rest of my life).

I should have made decisions more conducive to that ideal. My husband did make choices conducive to that ideal (though I had no idea how thoroughly effective he had been at it until 2 weeks ago).

Even though he wanted to wait til he was 30 before getting married, he still made decisions during his "season of singleness" that were conducive to the kind of marital and family structure that he wanted.

Christina said...

Anon,

In a word - he was Intentional =p

Christina said...

Adam said,
God can use anyone from any walk of life, and he does not require either celebacy or marriage, but only obedience to him wherever he leads, whether it be a season of singleness, lifelong celebacy, or marriage.

I like this quote.

I have to say, though, that there have been occasional comments from guys with no intention of marriage who will date a girl.

It makes me cringe inside because I have been toyed with in such a way more than once. But it bothered me most when it came from men I considered genuine Christians.

It felt like they were bearing false witness. I wouldn't call it lying, but somewhere in my last relationship I found that "bearing false witness" has a much deeper meaning to it than simply "lying" - and it has to do with how your life testifies to your intention, as well.

Its like professing to be a Christian without the intention of following Christ. They aren't lying to their knowledge, but they ARE bearing false witness.

A man who has no intention of marrying a girl should not be dating her. A guy who has no intention of marrying at all should not be dating.

It is unintentional dating and it trifles with the emotions of another human being in a way that is not right.

Of course, I'd say the exact same thing to a girl who was doing the same thing. In fact, I have.

catwoman said...

Adam, over a couple of posts you said:

"At very least, given that this comes after Jesus' discourse about divorce, it seems to me that this is simply referring to the fact that we must live our lives following after God, to glorify him, and to help his people rather than following after the hardness of our hearts if we are going to remain unmarried. However, that is nothing different than what is required of married people as well...Thus, Jesus would then be saying that whether you choose to marry or never marry, you must do it without hardness of heart, for the sake of the kingdom of God.'

The problem with this interpretation is that it seems to assume that the teaching in Matthew 19:11-12 is a general call to the single and unmarried alike, but it's really only for those who are interesting in being voluntarily single. Christ prefaces the passages with "not all can receive this teaching", repeating the same sentiment at the end of verse 12.

What's more is that there's nothing about choosing to marry out of "hardness of heart" (but there is something about divorcing due to hardness of heart), nor out of being single for "hardness of heart", since the asker is presumably open to the idea of staying single.

It seems that the Pharisees were asking Jesus about divorce for the sake of one's own pleasure ("for any reason"). Christ quickly takes the wind out of their sails by reiterating scriptural teaching on marriage and divorce - lest anyone fancy being absolved of the sacrifices, responsibilities and inconveniences of marriage!

Likewise, when choice to evade marriage is presented as a pre-emptive solution, he presents only an option that clearly involves sacrifice. At the very least, he's certainly making a point that if the faithful believer wishes to remain single, there will be no sex involved!

In other words, he does not validate divorce "for any reason", nor does he validate remaining single "for any reason". Indeed, either choice will result in suffering and sacrifice. For a passage that started out with questions about an easy out, then a softer option, it's interesting and ironic that the passage would progress to a surprise ending where they listeners are whalloped with a challenge to yet an even harder option!

PuritanCalvinist said...

Catwoman,

What's more is that there's nothing about choosing to marry out of "hardness of heart" (but there is something about divorcing due to hardness of heart), nor out of being single for "hardness of heart", since the asker is presumably open to the idea of staying single.

Well, again, catwoman, as I have pointed out before, you have a very naive view of language. You seem to think that, unless you get the exact words "it is wrong to be single out of the hardness of your heart," that this is not the force of what Jesus is saying here. As I have mentioned to you before, you will not find the exact phrase "God is a trinity" in the Bible either. That doesn't mean that God is not a trinity.

My point was that Jesus criticizes the pharasees for their hardness of heart, and points them back to the path of obedience to God's word. Then, he tells those who choose to remain single that they must do so "for the sake of the kingdom of God," and not for the simple reason that marriage is permenant. There is a very clear parallel being set up between the reasons to remain single, and the reasons to get married. If you don't agree, then show me why you believe the parallel is not there.

The problem with this interpretation is that it seems to assume that the teaching in Matthew 19:11-12 is a general call to the single and unmarried alike, but it's really only for those who are interesting in being voluntarily single. Christ prefaces the passages with "not all can receive this teaching", repeating the same sentiment at the end of verse 12.

Of course, because the disciples asked Jesus if it was better, in light of what he said, to never marry. Jesus grants that it is possible for a person to not marry, but not for the reason of the premenance of marriage. The reason why people cannot accept it must be explained by the preceeding context, as Jesus will not get to the "eunichs for the sake of the kingdom of God" part until the end of the following verse. Hence, it would be senseless to state that not everyone can accept something when the apparent reason for not accepting it is still at the end of the next, rather long, verse. Such would be totally out of place, and make nonsense out of the statement.

Likewise, when choice to evade marriage is presented as a pre-emptive solution, he presents only an option that clearly involves sacrifice. At the very least, he's certainly making a point that if the faithful believer wishes to remain single, there will be no sex involved!

Sacrifice in what sense though, catwoman. That is the issue of the debate. It is sacrifice "for the sake of the kingdom of God," not for gospel service, or anything of the sort. The person must give up the life of riches and pleasures, and use their time and money to serve God and serve others, that is, "for the sake of the kingdom of God." That is a sacrifice. To read into this text "gospel service" or anything else like it is total and complete acontextual anachronistic eisegesis.

God Bless,
Adam

catwoman said...

"Well, again, catwoman, as I have pointed out before, you have a very naive view of language. You seem to think that, unless you get the exact words "it is wrong to be single out of the hardness of your heart," that this is not the force of what Jesus is saying here."

It isn't what he's saying. This is what the passage says: "They said to him, 'Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?' 8He said to them, 'Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so...."

"Then, he tells those who choose to remain single that they must do so "for the sake of the kingdom of God," and not for the simple reason that marriage is permenant. There is a very clear parallel being set up between the reasons to remain single, and the reasons to get married."

Well, he's given a reason to stay married/not get divorced, and a reason to remain single, but in all honesty, I don't see him discussing any reasons here for getting married (he simply doesn't address it).

"The problem with this interpretation is that it seems to assume that the teaching in Matthew 19:11-12 is a general call to the single and unmarried alike, but it's really only for those who are interesting in being voluntarily single. Christ prefaces the passages with "not all can receive this teaching", repeating the same sentiment at the end of verse 12."

Oops. I made a typo here. I meant to say that the problem with your interpretation ("that whether you choose to marry or never marry, you must do it without hardness of heart, for the sake of the kingdom of God.") was that is that it seems to assume that the teaching in Matthew 19:11-12 is a general call to those staying single and those **marrying** alike, but it's really only for those who are interesting in being voluntarily single (as per "not all can receive this teaching").

Hardness of heart in one's decision to marry really doesn't seem to be an issue in this passage, and the hardness of heart of those who are have never married is merely assumed by you to be in mind. The actual mention of hardness of heart (as reason why Moses allowed divorce) is something else altogether -- and Christ quickly offers his take on it (that remarriage is adultery, except in cases of sexual immorality). But I agree with your statement that "Jesus grants that it is possible for a person to not marry, but not for the reason of the premenance of marriage".

"It is sacrifice "for the sake of the kingdom of God," not for gospel service, or anything of the sort. The person must give up the life of riches and pleasures, and use their time and money to serve God and serve others, that is, "for the sake of the kingdom of God." That is a sacrifice."

I don't claim to know how specifically God would require such a sacrifice to be "gospel service", but it sounds like pretty serious business to me. Some here (not you) have suggested that someone who is avoiding marriage because they don't want to make a mistake because of the permanence of marriage would actually fall under the "3rd eunuch" category, which seems a bit grandiose to me. It's gotta be more than about just avoiding mistakes. I'm not saying that the skittish as sinning, per se, just that fear of divorce is hardly making oneself a eunuch "for the sake of the kingdom".

Amir Larijani said...

Catwoman, I'd say that the semantics need a little adjusting here. "Fear" is bandied about way too loosely in this case, when in fact it is probably far less common than anyone wishes to admit here.

With regard to single women and single men, there are various types....

(1) There are those who do not desire to marry at all. These are in the minority, but it would be folly to say that they are nonexistent. For some of them, it is a ministry matter. For others, there is fear of marriage. Still, others are asexual. Even then, some are loose sexually, but refuse to make long-term committments.

(2) There are those who desire to marry, but wish to do so after they are established in a career. They might be physicians, dentists, lawyers, engineers, or entrepreneurs. They might be mid-level managers or CEOs. Men in this group are finding it harder to get established than it would have been decades ago, whereas women in this group often find themselves single well past a point that would be conisidered ideal.

(3) There are those who desire to marry, but fall into a "hard to marry" category. They might be challenged in the attractiveness department (and for reasons beyond their control). Men might be bald, fat, short, handicapped, or even some combination of that. Women might be fat or otherwise outside conventional definitions of attractiveness, Men and women in this group might have personality quirks, some of which might be attributable to past rejection. They might live in a geographic region that makes it harder to find a mate. Some of them have let their health slide, and this exacerbates their problems.

(4) There are those who desire to marry, but it simply has not worked out. They might have had relationships that did not materialize as would be expected. They might be exercising prudence with respect to making good marital choices. They might simply have a hard time finding a mate. They might be holding to a lower-percentage standard. Or they might just have unique life situations.

Compounding matters, there are people who overlap into categories 2, 3, and 4.

I know a couple of people in category 1. Only one of them "fears" marriage, and that one is female. (But for those fears, she'd be my wife.) Asexual males are definitely the exception to the rule, but I won't say they aren't out there.

I know no small number of people in category 2. Both sexes. The men in that group see "getting established first" as a personal obligation, as they have been taught that--with the expectation that they be providers--they ought not marry until they are established. The women in this group have largely been inoculated--at home, church, and school--against traditional values. They are taught not to trust men, but not in those words. Such instruction takes the form of "rise to your potential", or "make sure you have something to fall back on", etc.

Category 3 is also quite full of members of both sexes. The bitch of it is this: 40 years ago, people in this category still had a much easier time finding a mate. This is because the church often worked with them--rather than excoriating them--to help them find mates. Expressing a desire for marriage was not seen as a sexual perversion.

Category 4 is also quite full. Both sexes. Some of them overlap with categories 2 and 3. Folks in this group tend to be cynical and not very trusting of people, due to past experiences. While they do not "fear" marriage, they are slow to trust members of the opposite sex who seem to express interest. They have to be won over. After all, they have seen too many false positives.

Compounding matters, you have a social landscape that requires men and women to clear more hurdles than anyone in Biblical times had to clear.

(In Biblical times, marriages were largely arranged, and families did a lot of negotiating. Even in prior but recent generations, churches and families worked together and people often married others whom they had known as children. Today, a lot of that is lost.)

And today, while I would suggest that churches can do a lot more to help men and women--who aspire to marriage--find mates, I say this reluctantly, as many of us here, like SXM and Anakin and myself, are quite familiar with churches that have abused and browbeaten singles under the guise of "Godly accountability".

And don't get me wrong: I'm not accusing you of anything, Catwoman, only pointing out that there are no pat answers to this. Chalking up the backlog of singles to "fear of marriage" or "men choosing to be eunuchs" is probably an overly simplistic answer.

While I'm all for liberties in this department, I know of no men--outside the blogosphere--who have sworn off marriage. I don't know Anakin or Triton or MarkyMark personally.

The MGTOW folks are not prevalent in the Church. They might be quite vocal in the blogosphere, but I've yet to see them in my 24 adult years in the church.

Of the Christian men I know who are still single, I'm not aware of any who are MGTOW thinkers.

They'll give you an earful about the institutional church and even the sociopolitical landscape--and many of their criticisms are perfectly valid--but they have hardly sworn off marriage.

Some--men and women alike--might be pickier about potential mates than you and I might think is reasonable, but that is a personal preference on their end.

And we all have reasons--some of which might seem petty at first glance, but have good rational basis.

Example: a frequenter of my blog insists on dating only tall men. Some men might take exception, but she's 6-foot-1.

Standing toe to toe, my eyes would be aimed right smack at her breasts, which would certainly make for some socially embarrassing situations (at least for her LOL).

Anonymous said...

' the church often worked with them--rather than excoriating them--to help them find mates.'
Yes indeed!

catwoman said...

"Catwoman, I'd say that the semantics need a little adjusting here. "Fear" is bandied about way too loosely in this case, when in fact it is probably far less common than anyone wishes to admit here...And don't get me wrong: I'm not accusing you of anything, Catwoman, only pointing out that there are no pat answers to this. Chalking up the backlog of singles to "fear of marriage" or "men choosing to be eunuchs" is probably an overly simplistic answer."

I wasn't chalking up the backlog of singles due to "fear of marriage", I was merely saying that doing so does not automatically grant anyone "3rd eunuch" status. I don't think anyone in your four categories can claim it (except perhaps those in the first category whose ministry activities would best remain mateless). That doesn't mean that all those singles in the other categories are automatically "in sin", just that we cannot assume how God judges those at the end of a lifetime who are have remained unmarried due to preferences, ambitions, failures, injustices, circumstances or any combination of those. The scriptures may not condemn "any reason singleness", but they do not legitimize it either. That should give us something to think about.


Just an observation about your description of "category 2", you write that "The men in that group see "getting established first" as a personal obligation, as they have been taught that--with the expectation that they be providers--they ought not marry until they are established. The women in this group have largely been inoculated--at home, church, and school--against traditional values. They are taught not to trust men, but not in those words."

Do you think this is just a bit black and white here? I would say that for both genders in this situation that AMBITION is the driving force here -- and the need to fulfill potential. Those men aren't just "getting established first" as a personal obligation, they are getting established because they believe that it's their best chance of ending up with the highest possible quality (esp. re: attractiveness) of mate. Boiling women's career aspirations down to not trusting men is pretty simplistic, since they too believe that pursuing a career will lead to a more successful mate -- and usually it does, except for those who have as one poster here said "priced themselves out of the market".

Your Category 3 description is one area where I wholeheartedly agree, and for a number of reasons, churches have always drawn more that their fair share of people of both sexes in this category. And yes, many modern churches have exacerbated the problem by equating the desire for marriage with perversion or spiritual inadequacy. Fortunately, it's becoming increasingly acceptable to question the questionable teachings, GoS and otherwise, that have kept people stuck.

Many Category 4 people overlap with categories 2 and 3, and so the cynicism you've mentioned often emerges in stories that put the emphasis on the other sex, rather than looking at those category 2 & 3 aspects of themselves. Not that some of these individuals weren't wronged in some way, but generalizing from their own limited experiences to denounce the opposite sex is indeed "fear of marriage", or at least, encourages it among those not yet old and cynical (and that I think is a sin). These individuals stay put, expecting to be won over, but change, even if unlikely, becomes even less likely for them unless they deal with the realities of why things didn't work out for them. I have no interest in proselytizing marriage to those people (some of whom did indeed have bad experiences with the opposite sex) but I question their finger pointing.

"While I'm all for liberties in this department, I know of no men--outside the blogosphere--who have sworn off marriage...The MGTOW folks are not prevalent in the Church. They might be quite vocal in the blogosphere, but I've yet to see them in my 24 adult years in the church."

My problem isn't so much with those who have "sworn off marriage", since I agree that MGTOW is not prevalent in the church (and never will be, I might add). My concern has been more about the mass drift away from marriage, for reasons you've mentioned (ie. social landscape that requires men and women to clear more hurdles than anyone in Biblical times had to clear). Personally, I feel a lot less cynical about the church now that these issues (GoS and otherwise) are finally being talked about and addressed. Sure, there have been some extreme polemics that have arisen out of the discussion, but they've been through the critique mill and a new common ground is becoming established. Or maybe I'm just feeling optimistic due to what seems like an early spring arriving up here.

Triton said...

Uh, Anakin? I'm not seeing any blog posts on your home page. I had to click on the archives to get here.

Is it just me, or is anyone else experiencing this too?

Ame said...

i'm coming back in at the end here, missing the middle comments ... will try to catch up

but this that Amir said is very true, at least in all the circles i've been in:

"They are taught not to trust men, but not in those words. Such instruction takes the form of "rise to your potential", or "make sure you have something to fall back on", etc."

from the time i was nine, i grew up in the sbc ... went to a sbc university ... married into a sbc pastor/missionary family. and this teaching is all i heard ... ALL i heard.

reaching one's potential ... being ambitious ... doing what God has called you to do ... i don't remember hearing any of that in ways that were not couched in some form of, "prepare yourself for not needing a man b/c they are not dependable ... you need to be able to take care of yourself at all times."

i hear parents of teenagers and college-aged kids telling them this all the time.

funny ... i could never define it or explain it, but i never bought into it ... and i'm the one whose husband dumped me and actually needed to be able to support myself.

but i'm teaching my daughter's the truth ... and it's rubbing their dad and his parents wrong. they can't exactly pinpoint it, but they know it's not what they are trying to teach them.

i'm not against my daughters' getting an education .. and if they want a car, they'd better get a job and save the money to get one. and i do believe they need to discover how God has gifted them and purposed them and to use whatever means available, including proper education, to be able to be all God has created them to be.

but this is NOT because men are bad and cannot be trusted. this is because God has created them for a purpose, and they need to be responsible with what God has given/gifted them.

tonight my Oldest told me (who is 11) that she wants to live with me till she's married. i'm way okay with that. i want her to know that i want her to be safe and protected, and if at 11 living with mom till she's married makes her feel that way, good for her.

catwoman said...

Ame,

I do not dispute that there has been a message for women not to rely on men, to have a safety net in the way of a job, etc. I just don't think that's the main reason why women pursue careers, which has more to do with ambitions that exist in their own right.

Triton said...

Ok, the blog works normally now. Whatever was going on seems to be resolved.

Carry on...

Learner said...

To go along with Amir's reasons for singleness, there is also the fact that for believers, men and women both, the possible "pool" of mates starts out smaller because of God's call to only marry other believers.

The scriptures may not condemn "any reason singleness", but they do not legitimize it either. That should give us something to think about.

What about 1 Corinthians 7:36-38? It seems to me Paul makes it pretty clear that it is up to each man's conscience. How is any other person to know how God has directed someone? But, I am no theologian.

The scriptures also don't condemn or legitimize a whole host of things such as single people living apart from their families, marriage licenses, chemotherapy, cell phones, space flight, pescatarianism, etc. There are many things not explicitly spelled out in the Bible. Christianity isn't about searching for rules to follow out of fear of condemnation. It's about walking with Christ in truth and freedom with an open, teachable, and obediant heart.

catwoman said...

"What about 1 Corinthians 7:36-38? It seems to me Paul makes it pretty clear that it is up to each man's conscience."

I would tend to agree with you there, at least as far as the historical context of that passage (esp. re: "present distress", and even more than that. There needs to be at least some room for individuality here.

As for the fact that the scriptures don't condemn or legitimize a whole host of things, again, I would think say the same thing about those things on your list - that we should think about all of those things as far as how they fit with scripture. Not in a legalistic rule searching fashion, but in the consideration of both truth and freedom. I don't assume that God approves of my cell phone, even though I love having the freedom to use it.

Most believers have no problem acknowledging that for people, in general, and for the church, in general, that marriage is necessary for the propogation and good of God's people. The question is then one of where does necessity for the good of the gander end, and the freedom of the goose begin? If it's necessary for the gander to do something, it is acceptable to ever challenge the goose to think about what they personally are doing about that?

Just asking.

Learner said...

Catwoman,

I think most believers would agree that marriage is a good thing that is beneficial to both society and the church. However, I also think many believers acknowledge that marriage is not "necessary" for the growth of the church since that is accomplished through the work of the Holy Spirit.

The question is then one of where does necessity for the good of the gander end, and the freedom of the goose begin? If it's necessary for the gander to do something, it is acceptable to ever challenge the goose to think about what they personally are doing about that?

Is it acceptable to challenge single people, both men and women, to think about marriage and how God may be directing them regarding marriage and singleness? I would say that it is. However I don't think that makes it acceptable to assume that a single person is selfish, or fearful, or is being disobedient to God, or is otherwise sinning if they are not pursuing marriage.

catwoman said...

"I also think many believers acknowledge that marriage is not "necessary" for the growth of the church since that is accomplished through the work of the Holy Spirit."

You could say the same thing about the spreading of the gospel, removing it from the context of something that most believers do, instead leaving it up to others, such as missionaries and other church leaders. After all, it's not really the missionaries, church leaders who spread the gospel, it's the Holy Spirit, right?

There are consequences when you mentally move the work of God into the abstract, and out of the context of believers obediently following good teaching.

"Is it acceptable to challenge single people, both men and women, to think about marriage and how God may be directing them regarding marriage and singleness? I would say that it is. However I don't think that makes it acceptable to assume that a single person is selfish, or fearful, or is being disobedient to God, or is otherwise sinning if they are not pursuing marriage."

Problem is, right now, to challenge anyone to think about marriage is pretty much regarded as an affront to all singles, as if you're calling them selfish, fearful, odisobedient -- even when no such assumption is being made. It's a topic clearly off limits, in the realm of "between me and my God".

Learner said...

Catwoman,

The body of Christ does not grow because people marry and have kids, it grows when people come to faith in Christ which is the work of the Holy Spirit. Thus, marriage does not grow the body of Christ, the Holy Spirit does. My statement had nothing to do with people being obedient to God's leading in their life about either marriage or sharing the Gospel.

Problem is, right now, to challenge anyone to think about marriage is pretty much regarded as an affront to all singles

Well, I said marriage and singleness, not just marriage. I haven't seen any examples of Christian singles objecting to the idea that they follow God's leading with regard to marriage and singleness. What I have seen is objections to the idea that someone else would know that God was directing them to marry or not and "challenging" their perception of that leading or their motivations for their choices.

catwoman said...

"The body of Christ does not grow because people marry and have kids, it grows when ***people*** come to faith in Christ which is the work of the Holy Spirit."

Uh, and how does God create ***people*** ((jeopardy theme song sample layered with sound fx of birds & bees....

Learner said...

That was a typo on my part, I should have said "because believers marry and have children" as I did in an earlier comment.

Would you care to address the substance of what I said?

catwoman said...

It's almost too self-evident to comment on -- the body of Christ grows both because of ***people*** who are believers having children (Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6) AND ***people*** obediently coming to faith in Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit through those ***people*** who have obediently spread the Gospel.

Learner said...

C'mon Catwoman, You know as well as I do that marriage is not required for children to be born. You also know that having Christian parents is no guarantee that someone will come to faith in Christ. Thus, marriage could cease to exist as an institution today and people would still be born and people would still come to faith in Christ. Your argument that marriage is necessary for the growth of the church is therefore a strawman. As I said before, is marriage a good thing? Yes. Is it ordained by God? Yes. Can marriage promote Christian values and play a role in raising believers? Yes. Is it necessary for growth of the church? No, it is not.

catwoman said...

Well, I suppose it's possible that God might choose to let humans go extinct, filling His kingdom with sheep instead...with border collies as missionaries wearing cute little bo-peep outfits.

I think we can have faith that for now, and in the imminent future (unless He issues another work of scripture) God chooses to populate His kingdom with humans that, as Laverne and Shirley would say, vo-di-oh-doh. And for them to do so efficiently and under biblical law, marriage would be an essential part of that picture.

Learner said...

So, if believers stop marrying and having children today, human beings would go extinct and there would be no people for God to call to Himself? Hmm, yeah, 'cause unbelievers never have children outside of marriage that become believers. Think about it, Catwoman. Your argument isn't based in reality no matter how much you mock me. That doesn't mean that marriage isn't good. It just means it is not necessary for the Growth of the body of Christ.

catwoman said...

Actually, Learner, it's you that is making this discussion into a mockery, by directing onto red herring improbabilities under the guise of a sovereignty argument.

Is it necessary that you show up at church in order to be obedient to keeping the sabbath? Is it necessary that you tell others about Christ to be obedient to spreading the gospel? You can search for grey areas and exceptions, if you like, and look for ways that God can work around our lack of participation, but either you are obediently doing your part or you are not. How necessary is it to have children in order to be obedient to God's call to further the kingdom? We can be vague about what's commanded of the individual, but to deny what's commanded of God's people in general is pretty self-evident....

...So to refine my question...where does obedience of God's people to a general call end, and the freedom of the individual begin?

Amir Larijani said...

Catwoman asks: ...So to refine my question...where does obedience of God's people to a general call end, and the freedom of the individual begin?

With the issue of marriage and children, it's probably a case-by-case basis. Personally, I would suggest that most are probably called to marry and have children, although everyone will not necessarily think or express that in terms of "God called me to..."

I think it comes down to what frame of reference from which you are operating.

If you are a single and Christian and aspire to marriage, it is entirely probable--although not necessarily the case--that you are called to marriage.

With respect to other people, we almost never get to see God's frame of reference in this arena. It would be dangerous to speak to an individual and say, "God is calling you to marry." (Taking the prophetic office requires a perfect batting average. I wouldn't touch that office with a ten foot pole. LOL)

It is similarly every bit as dangerous to attempt to impose a general mandate on others in this area. With Scipture, there is no general mandate for the believers.

Still, there is enough cultural attack against marriage, such that it does good to (a) promote the sanctity of covenant relationships, the understanding of which is fundamental to understanding our relationship to God, (b) promote the goodness of the marriage covenant, as it is rooted in Creation, (c) promote the benefits of marriage even as we accept the reality of our own fallenness, and (d) encourage the pursuit of marriage without imposing mandates or ostracizing others.

Learner said...

Catwoman,

I'm not sure what "red herring" you think I am bringing up since it was you who said: Most believers have no problem acknowledging that for people, in general, and for the church, in general, that marriage is necessary for the propogation and good of God's people.

You were asserting that people should be challenged about marriage on the claim that marriage is necessary for the growth of the church. Not beneficial, but necessary, and that is factually not the case. But, I suppose to admit that it is more a case of "benefit" than "necessity" would not benefit your argument.

You can search for grey areas and exceptions, if you like, and look for ways that God can work around our lack of participation, but either you are obediently doing your part or you are not.

I'm not searching for gray areas Catwoman, I'm simply acknowledging that they exist in this area (and many others). My point is that no one but the individual in question can know whether or not they are being obedient to God in the area of marriage and singleness because no one but them knows how God had lead them on the subject.

We can be vague about what's commanded of the individual, but to deny what's commanded of God's people in general is pretty self-evident....

Marriage is generally "commanded" of believers? Where? Marriage is ordained by God as good and is generally good for believers. It seems to me that what is commanded is each individual's willingness to be obedient to what God would have them do. Does this mean that generally most believers will marry? Yes, it probably does. It does not mean most believers are commanded to marry.

So to refine my question...where does obedience of God's people to a general call end, and the freedom of the individual begin?

My answer would essentially be the same as Amir's comment at 1:18pm.

catwoman said...

"You were asserting that people should be challenged about marriage on the claim that marriage is necessary for the growth of the church. Not beneficial, but necessary, and that is factually not the case."

I don't think you're in any position to toss around the word "factually", when you're basing so much of your argument on theory and abstractions. To say that marriage is merely "beneficial" is truly minimizing an integral piece in God's creation schema.

"My point is that no one but the individual in question can know whether or not they are being obedient to God in the area of marriage and singleness because no one but them knows how God had lead them on the subject."

I would say that you are over-emphasizing special revelation to the individual, when in fact, the scriptures never promise the individual that he or she will know how God will lead them on the subject of marriage. And I agree with Amir that would be dangerous to speak to an individual and say, "God is calling you to marry.", especially in light of how much confusion that word has created in terms of general vs. specific calls. Kostenberger speaks of marriage more in terms of ordinance, or rather "creation ordinance". Are there exceptions to that ordinance? Sure, and some are spelled out in Matthew 19 and 1 Cor 7.


"Marriage is generally "commanded" of believers?"

Okay, let's soften the word "command", and water down Genesis 2 and 1 Cor 7:2-9 to simple recommendations, things that are merely beneficial or "good for us". As believers, how seriously should we consider God's recommendations? I don't think there's much difference between a recommendation and a command, when you're dealing with the word of the Lord. I think it would be safe to say that those unmarried and "burning" (the vast majority of single believers) the imperative tone of "gameo" -- get married -- sounds just a bit more serious than complete freedom to marry or not marry, whatever, whenever.

catwoman said...

Given the cultural attack on marriage, I think we need to go one better on Amir's list of five "good" things: I think we need to confront (not just cavil, the pieces of "empirical research") the potential consequences of it, for the individual and for society/the church. But then again, if marriage is merely an unecessary frill (an impression believers can come by honestly, if you read enough Elisabeth Elliot), it shouldn't matter if there's a cultural attack on it?

Learner said...

Catwoman,

I don't think you're in any position to toss around the word "factually", when you're basing so much of your argument on theory and abstractions.

Fact: Children can be born outside of marriage. This happens every day.

Fact: People can come to faith in Christ without being raised in a Christian home. This also happens every day.

So, I stand by what I said.

To say that marriage is merely "beneficial" is truly minimizing an integral piece in God's creation schema.

You may need to re-read my comments since I didn't say marriage was merely beneficial.

I would say that you are over-emphasizing special revelation to the individual, when in fact, the scriptures never promise the individual that he or she will know how God will lead them on the subject of marriage.

You're welcome to your opinion. I'm not saying God will hit someone with a lightning bolt or that they will see the face of their future spouse in a dream. The scriptures repeatedly tell us that God will lead our steps, guide our paths, give us wisdom etc. If you don't want to believe that God would lead, guide, and grant wisdom to individuals about marriage, that is your call.

Okay, let's soften the word "command", and water down Genesis 2 and 1 Cor 7:2-9 to simple recommendations, things that are merely beneficial or "good for us".

There is no need to water down any scripture to say that God does not generally command believers to marry. Amir already covered this in regard to 1 Cor:7. The question of "is be fruitful and multiply a command that all believers should marry and have children" has been debated repeatedly and I see no need to repeat that here.

As believers, how seriously should we consider God's recommendations? I don't think there's much difference between a recommendation and a command, when you're dealing with the word of the Lord.

Where does it say that God "reccommends" believers marry in general? As Amir already covered 1 Cor:7 pretty clearly states that it is a matter of individual conscience.

I think it would be safe to say that those unmarried and "burning" (the vast majority of single believers) the imperative tone of "gameo" -- get married -- sounds just a bit more serious than complete freedom to marry or not marry, whatever, whenever.

Who said complete freedom to marry whatever, whenever? I said that each individual should follow God's leading. That is not "whatever, whenever".

catwoman said...

"Fact: Children can be born outside of marriage. This happens every day.

Fact: People can come to faith in Christ without being raised in a Christian home. This also happens every day."

Yes, yes, always the exceptions with you. But as you focus on theorical possibilities, you discount what actually happens in practice. Of all the Christians alive in the world today, how many do you reckon grew up in at least nominally Christian homes with married parents? Most or some? Again, I think you minimize the teachings of Proverbs 22:6.


"The scriptures repeatedly tell us that God will lead our steps, guide our paths, give us wisdom etc. If you don't want to believe that God would lead, guide, and grant wisdom to individuals about marriage, that is your call."

If you don't bother preparing well for an exam, God probably won't lead, guide and grant you wisdom so that you'll pass the test despite your failure to do your part (ie. "natural consequences"). Why would it be would be much different with things like marriage or missions work?

"The question of "is be fruitful and multiply a command that all believers should marry and have children" has been debated repeatedly and I see no need to repeat that here...Where does it say that God "reccommends" believers marry in general?"

Well, I suppose if you're willing to accept a "very eccentric reading" of that text, which most theologians would consider as a creation ordinance that still applies. As for it applying to "all believers", again, there are biblical exceptions, some of which were spelled out in texts we have already discussed.

And again, I don't claim to know how God judges individuals who remain single for their own reasons. Or generations or societies where there are large numbers of people doing the same. I only know that it's a taboo topic to even think about putting on the table, as this thread aptly demonstrates.

Learner said...

Catwoman,

Well, since I was disagreeing with your assertion that marriage is necessary for the growth of the church I am unsure how else I would express that disagreement except with the facts (yes, facts) that make it untrue.

Of all the Christians alive in the world today, how many do you reckon grew up in at least nominally Christian homes with married parents?

Catwoman, apparently you are unaware that non traditionally Christian areas of the world such as parts of Africa and Asia are the areas where there is the most growth in Christianity. That degree of growth isn't due to believers marrying and having children and raising them to be believers. Certainly many people are exposed to the gospel through their homes, but that, again, does not make marriage necessary for the growth of the church. That is my point.

As for the rest of your response, yet again you are bringing up things that I did not claim. For example If you don't bother preparing well for an exam, God probably won't lead, guide and grant you wisdom so that you'll pass the test despite your failure to do your part as though the concept that marriage is a matter of the conscience means that you are not preparing to do whatever God leads you to do or that you are failing to do your part if you are obedient to God's leading. I am weary of the merry-go-round, so I am exiting the ride. Have a nice evening.

catwoman said...

"Catwoman, apparently you are unaware that non traditionally Christian areas of the world such as parts of Africa and Asia are the areas where there is the most growth in Christianity. That degree of growth isn't due to believers marrying and having children and raising them to be believers."

Oh yes it is. If you cannot see how the family unit (not the missions field, lest they should boast) is the soil in which Christianity is grown and maintained in Africa and Asia, when then, you don't know much about either Africa or Asia. In Europe, the church is in decline because the family is in decline, and vice versa. You cannot separate the two.

Amir Larijani said...

Catwoman says: In Europe, the church is in decline because the family is in decline, and vice versa. You cannot separate the two.

Actually, in Europe the Church is in decline for a number of reasons, most of which are beyond the scope of this particular topic. The decline of the family is a ramification of that.

Does that make a case for the promotion of marriage? Yes and no.

In the presentation of the Gospel, marriage and family--as modeled in Scripture--is an excellent object lesson for emphasizing the nature of covenant.

Does that mean that we now have some mandate to say, "Get married and have babies! The future of the Gospel depends on it"? No. That advice has no Biblical precedent.

Unfortunately, we have a tendency--in our zeal--to take good things, some of which may be struggles monumental to us--and craft dogmas and promote them in terms of those dogmas.

Trouble is, when you start doing that, the good thing that you sought to promote gets drowned in the dogmatic platform from which you promoted it.

This is how Maken--whose struggles as a single with which I fully empathize--has taken an opportunity to make a very positive case for marriage, and instead created a disaster by turning what could have been a wonderful platform into a disastrous dogma.

That is how folks who straightened out their lives by eschewing alcohol, rather than promote the virtue of moderation and approaching freedoms soberly, instead promote the dogma that God commands everyone to abstain completely from alcohol. The latter, of course, is a teaching nowhere to be found in Scripture.

At the end of the day, we need to understand that dogma--even with the best of intentions--is still dogma.

catwoman said...

"Does that mean that we now have some mandate to say, "Get married and have babies! The future of the Gospel depends on it"? No. That advice has no Biblical precedent."

There has never been a generation of Christians who thought the creation ordinance of Genesis applied only to the people of that time. Again, I don't claim to know how God will judge those of us (single, childless or otherwise) living this current age of church decline (or if that decline will continue). In our modernity, we have been able to alter the patterns of our lives with birth control, abortion, and distractions of every kind -- and who knows if all or any of those things on their own are "sinful", as we debate what's good or what's bad, what's dogmatic, what's significant, what's not, what's too permissive or complacent, etc. etc.? Only time will tell as the natural consequences of what we are doing unfold...

...Kind of like that Joni Mitchell song...don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got til its gone...

catwoman said...

In the spirit of "spirited debate", or polemics, or whatever you want to call it...

...to be absolutely honest, there are few things I hate more than a busybody. I want some old biddy leaning across five pews to try and unpack why I'm not married like I want a tabasco manicure for my hangnails. I'm really not advocating for people to grill single people about why they're not married. Likewise, I don't think we should smugly consider ourselves to be "off the hook" either. Even if some of us have stayed single due to sinful attitudes, choices, preferences, behaviors/non-behaviors, we have the redemptive work of Christ that gives us grace. As such, our vain efforts to justify the legitimacy of our lifestyles is meaningless. Better to be a repentant sinner than a bitter saint.

Amir Larijani said...

Catwoman says: As such, our vain efforts to justify the legitimacy of our lifestyles is meaningless.

This has less to do with justifying our lifestyles, but rather with contesting those who would impose their neo-Pharisaical dogma on others, even if that dogma might have otherwise good intentions behind it.

Most of the time, we're dealing with "Marriage Mandator" dogma here.

But it could easily be "thou shalt never consume alcohol" dogma or "thou shalt read King James only" dogma or "you must kiss dating goodbye" dogma or "men must never counsel women" dogma, or "thou must never use contraception" dogma, etc.

There are specific people who probably should never get within ten feet of a Guinness. But there is no Biblical mandate to all believers. I would say that irrespective of the fact that I enjoy one every so often.

If you wish to memorize Scripture, KJV is the gold standard, but to impose that as the only legitimate English translation is laughable. (Seriously...here in Kentucky, there are a TON of preachers who insist on KJV only, and will attempt to argue that Jesus only turned water into grape juice.)

Moreoever, it is all well and good to challenge the modern dating paradigm--emphasizing the potential shortcomings--while not imposing some dogmatic "Biblical dating" standard.

Same is true regarding men counseling women: there are risks, but (a) there is no Biblical command against it, and (b) provided one exercises prudence in such matters, it is perfectly acceptable. After all, Jesus talked to women--not related to Him--in public, which was taboo in those days...

As for contraception, I only wish to use the rhythm method--it keeps the babies spaced about 12 months apart--but, again, I am not about taking my personal views and imposing that as binding commands on all believers.

That's the problem: taking personal views, even those which have all the best of intentions in mind, and imposing them as commands where none does not exist in Scripture.