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

Monday, July 6, 2009

Male-Bashing at Boundless (Again)

On a recent podcast at Boundless, Lisa Anderson discusses a sentiment that seems to be common among some women she has talked to: If a man is still single by a certain age, then there is something wrong with him (Never mind that single women don't have to jump through as many hoops as men do in order to attract the opposite sex.). Ted Slater thinks there's some truth with the sentiment expressed by these women. You can hear the salient part of the exchange here (starting at 18:00 minutes into the broadcast).

Yeah, bachelors are just a bunch of dysfunctional ne'er-do-wells who are a drain on our society.

55 comments:

Triton said...

No wonder Ted agrees with them. He's been engaged three times; he IS the "dysfunctional" sort of guy they are talking about. His problem is that he fails to realize that most of the rest of us aren't like him.

At least now he has a wife to keep him from the egregious sins of sleeping until 9 in the morning and eating at the wrong times.

singlextianman said...

Astonishing. I would suggest that Ted's comments may be influenced by his more frequently seeing the kind of men who would voluntarily associate as a free independent adult with a Sovereign Grace Church, wherein he is ordained. I could be wrong.

At any rate the proper posture is one of forgiveness. But you (and we) do well to associate people with their ideas with intellectual integrity and to challenge bad ideas.

I note anecdotally that recently I had occasion to have my masculinity challenged by an Assembly of God pastor who thought that perhaps I was gay - this man having known me for all of about five minutes. I had explained a bit about the singlechristianman and singlextianman 'blogs. I was floored. I rebuked him, politely.

Watch that SXM space for some coming commentary.

Amir Larijani said...

To Ted: as a fine President we both admire once said, "There you go again..."

That men and women--in positions of protracted singleness--develop certain quirks and habits, does not, in and of itself, explain the issue of protracted singleness. Does the former explain the latter? Or does the latter lead to the former? I've seen both.

Personally, I know neither Ted nor the women to whom he had been previously engaged. Ergo, I cannot speak to why those did not work out.

My guess: some of that was probably on Ted, some of that was probably on his exes. My experience--both on my end and having observed others--indicates that, 9 times out of 10, when relationships fail there is typically fault on both ends. If Ted accepts that he was the reason those did not work out, then fair enough: that is probably just his means of owning his junk and being gracious about his exes. Nothing wrong in that.

On the other hand, there is some truth to the premise: a man or woman who is older and single, is indeed single for any number of reasons, some of which can be reflective of (a) bad circumstances or (b) bad choices or (c) some character issues or (d) some combination of (a) and (b) and (c).

The general statement that Ted and Lisa made about older single men, can also be applied to older single women, if one wishes to apply that level of cynicism. I could always say, "If she's single and over 30, then either (a) she's perfectionist, (b) she's unstable, or (c) she has every problem that Solomon warns us about in Proverbs!"

Would that be fair? I dunno.

I would also suggest this: perhaps we--and by saying "we", I mean Christian men and women in general--are either (a) too idealistic or (b) too cynical in our assessment of the opposite sex.

The former often go into marriage with blinders on, completely unprepared for the problems that will emerge, as Total Depravity does not go away when Christians marry.

The latter, on the other hand, often make the perfect the enemy of the good, and are prone to making unfair judgments about potential mates, and therefore end up passing on very good potential matches, to their detriment.

Both problems can be mitigated by (a) good Christian parenting, and (b) good mentorship by the Church. I'd suggest that both parties have dropped that ball, and thrown many interceptions...

As for those who don't marry young, that happens for any number of reasons. Some of those can be the fault of the individual; some can be due to circumstances and challenges beyond their control.

Sweeping judgments on this, will not do anyone a damned bit of good.

singlextianman said...

The larger point, Amir, is about singleness qua singleness, and whether or not it is something that needs to be singled out, so to speak. Certainly there are men who should be married, and need to get off their duffs about this. And certainly there are ernest Christian men who are single who need other things in their lives than finger-wagging about their marital state.

Amir Larijani said...

SXM: This is true. I am referring to those men and women who aspire to marry, and not to those who are single and (a) are called to that, or (b) are unsure of where they are called in life.

Still, yeah...churches need to quit treating singles as second and third-tier believers.

Novaseeker said...

Well, it depends.

People who are older and have never been married are not all "dysfunctional". Some of the time that may be the case, but there are a lot of other reasons it can be that way, including: moving around a lot, focusing on career, one or two LTRs that went bad, and so on. It's pointless and dangerous to assume that everyone who is 35+ and has never been married is somehow defective or dysfunctional.

As for the age issue, people keep dancing around and around that issue to find the sweet spot, but there really isn't one. There is no "silver bullet" in terms of when the best time might be for marriage. People who marry when they are quite young actually have quite high divorce rates. The argument is often made that marrying young is better because you grow together and are less prone to be "set in your ways" than when you are older. But that doesn't take into account the fact that in many of these younger marriages, people change so much during their 20s that the couple can't adjust and adapt, and the marriage fails. The kinds of things someone wants and is attracted to and can live with at 23 are often very, very different from the same at 31. So to be honest I am very skeptical of the advocates of younger marriage per se. My own first marriage was a relatively younger marriage, and, among other things, the issue of changing a lot in the 20s became a huge issue for us.

There's certainly some truth to the idea that people who are older and have never been married are probably less flexible than younger people are. But that can be countered by (1) greater maturity, (2) a greater sense of what they want/need and (3) a much lower tendency to change in ways that undermine the relationship. With an older person, it's much more what you see is what you get, whereas with someone in their early 20s, you just simply have no idea who they will be at 30.

The podcast, therefore, was wrong to categorically problematize older people who are unmarried. It was too glib, and not nuanced enough to really address the issues in a measured way.

Ken said...

"I am referring to those men and women who aspire to marry, and not to those who are single and (a) are called to that, or (b) are unsure of where they are called in life.

Still, yeah...churches need to quit treating singles as second and third-tier believers."

Glad you clarified, Amir.

Yes, **IF** someone has long desired to marry and they reach a certain age and haven't, then they are probably doing something wrong, such as not seeking in the right places and the right ways, or has some significant character flaw that needs to be addressed.

There is NOTHING wrong, either Biblically or societally, from a man CHOOSING to be single, as long as he also avoids fornicating, making babies, etc. The Church should NOT be badmouthing single men simply for being single, or as somehow more deficient that anyone else. It should be embracing these men as potentially having more time and energy to devote to the Church, and encouraging them to otherwise be productive members of society (for example: Are they financially responsible? Are they good citizens?)

(I say these things as a happily married man... I'm not one of those who things EVERYONE should be married.)

Alphadominance said...

There is a damn good reason men are disinclined to marry until later, if ever, these days. Despite the portrayals in the media, men aren't stupid. Asking why men are reluctant to marry is like asking why a con is reluctant to bend over and pick up the soap in the shower. Duh, you're opening the door to being gang-sodomized. I did an entire workup on the topic here that elaborates. Any of those dizzy broads and their semi-male equivalents that don't get this need to read this: http://alphadominance.com/?p=1072

wombatty said...

I won't call Ted a loser, but he sure talks like one.

Anonymous said...

'Should, dysfunction, something wrong....'

Good thing shaming stops working on boys after 14years of age.

The fruits rotting on the vine and no amount of shaming is going to fix it. The 'Cows of Bashan' are going to have to yield to the Lord's greatest law, the law of consequences.

Amir Larijani said...

Anonymous says:
The fruits rotting on the vine and no amount of shaming is going to fix it. The 'Cows of Bashan' are going to have to yield to the Lord's greatest law, the law of consequences.


Not to mention the Law of Unintended Consequences.

TMink said...

"Yes, **IF** someone has long desired to marry and they reach a certain age and haven't, then they are probably doing something wrong,"

What if they are physically unattractive? That is nothing they did wrong. It is not Christian for the less attractive to be shunned, but it is done, it is part of our fallen nature to confuse looks with character.

Trey

Anonymous said...

Ted's examples of how his singleness instilled bad habits fails on so many levels. He listed two primary examples - sleeping late and odd eating times.

One. Are those truly universally bad habits or are they simple bad habits for the family that formed when he married and had children. There are families that do not hold what most others would consider regular eating times. A family I knew growing up always ate dinner at like 7-8pm. I thought they held odd eating times considering the latest dinner was served at our house was normally 6pm (barring unforeseen circumstances).

Two. Certain 'bad habits' can be even more pronounced in young adults just out of HS or college. Take his example of sleeping late. I know far more young adults who have horrible sleeping patterns than I do adults past their mid-twenties. Once you start working most people get into more of a pattern than most college students I've known. Is he equally going to claim that young adults have bad habits equal to those of their elders? I doubt it.

wombatty said...

Anon:

As to Ted's 'bad habits': I also think it's more than a bit weird that he based his assessment of men (actually himself) as 'dysfunctional' on such a basis. These are quite banal, run-of-the-mill foibles that we all have. Is that all it takes to be classified as 'dysfunctional'? We will never be rid of all of our flaws of this type - are we thus forever dysfunctional (not in the absolute sense, but in the sense they we talking about)?

Further, I'm sure his wife has flaws of the same magnitude; does (or did) that make her 'dysfuntional'? If we use the same logic, it must. Why was her dysfunction not addressed then? It would, after all, be directly relevant to her own then unmarried status. But, not a word was said.

That's why I said that Ted 'talks like a loser'. 'Losers'. among other things, are often 'down on themselves', beating themselves up over every percieved failure no matter how trivial and failing to see that everyone - even 'winners' - has similar struggles. In other words, they often make a mountain out of a mole-hill. You could practically hear the shame and apologetic tone in his voice for being so 'dysfunctional'.

To make matters worse, many in the church encourage this with 'man-bashing' of various sorts. Al Mohler is a perfect example. His article Reflecting on "The Mystery of Marriage" at Boundless talks about getting young christians interested in marriage.

After mentioning divorce in passing a time or two more, he writes:

----------------
Now, to the hard part. Demographic trends, cultural shifts, and a weakening of the biblical concept of marriage have produced a situation in which marriage is in big trouble, even among many Christians. Divorce must be listed first among the ills that have befallen marriage in recent decades, but at the New Attitude Conference I was asked to address young singles who had not yet married. While the problem of divorce must always be acknowledged and confronted with biblical truth, in speaking to never-married single Christians my purpose was to point them to the glory of God in the comprehensive goodness of marriage. Speaking to that audience, I addressed a problem much closer at hand.
----------------

I think it's astounding that he doesn't think the divorce issue really needs to be addressed to a crown of young, never-married christians. For crying out loud, this is the time to hammer on the issue, you don't wait until after they are married or divorced.

cont...

wombatty said...

But Mohler has bigger fish to fry:

--------------
I shared with those who attended the conference my concern that this delay — the deliberate putting off of marriage even among some who intend some day to be married — was "the sin I think besets this generation." Continuing, I also made clear that this is primarily a problem that should be laid at the feet of young men. While some young women may neglect the call of marriage, a far greater problem is the unwillingness of many young men to grow up, take responsibility, lead, and find the woman God would have them to marry.
--------------

Incredible; women simply 'neglect the call of marriage' while men are 'unwilling to grow up'. Nice double-standard there Al.

He goes on:

--------------
As a rule, young women show far greater commitment to marriage, far greater maturity about marriage, and far greater frustration about the fact that marriage has been delayed.
--------------

Of course, in saying this Mohler demonstrates a willful blindness to the issue he earlier brushed aside: divorce.

Women do not show a 'far greater commitment to marriage & maturity about marriage' than men do, unless you count simply wanting to get married as exhibiting this maturity.

As Triton once wrote,

anybody can get married, it takes commitment to stay married

and on this count, women exhibit 'far less commitment to marriage & maturity about marriage' than men do as they file for the vast majority of divorces. And given the divorce rate in the church, it is an issue that needs to be addressed; but Mohler has no time for such trivialites.

He then quips:

--------------
I thought I had made that point clearly — but perhaps not.
--------------

No, Mr. Mohler, the only thing you made clear is your blinkered perspective on men, women & marriage.

Molher's message can be summed up pretty easily: Yeah, divorce is an issue, but it's nothing we need to talk about. Let's get to the heart of the issue - christian men suck!! Now grow up and get married guys.

Ted's little bit about dysfuntional men continues in the same old the old 'men bad, women good' vein. It gets pretty tiresome...

TMink said...

"the sin I think besets this generation."

????? Where is his Biblical support for this tripe? Honestly, I am not concerned with what he thinks but with what He says.

We are in dark times when the clergy have abandoned God's word.

Trey

KnightWatch said...

Judging by the growing number of *cough* "dysfunctional" families inside/outside the Church in our current postmodernist environment, I would think that AGE would be the last source of measure in determining a dysfunctional MAN.

Oh, that is, unless one is over 40, unmarried, and a COUGAR. Then "age is just a number".

wombatty said...

Trey:

You just have to consider the source - this is the same man who gave a ringing endorsement to Debbie Maken's pile of tripe.

Despite whatever good Mohler and his ilk do, I think they discredit themselves - on this issue anyway - with their 'marriage or bust' mentality. In my opinion, they are very short-sighted; something exemplified perfectly by Mohler in the article where he brushes off the issue of divorce as something all but irrelevant to young, never-married christians in order to focus on marriage.

It seems to me that if we remind young people - before they marry - that God hates divorce , they might regard marriage as a very serious commitment from the moment they start comtemplating it. But again, Mohler couldn't be troubled with little details like that - he had some man-bashing to do!!

wombatty said...

Note the Mohler-quote from above:

--------------
Now, to the hard part. Demographic trends, cultural shifts, and a weakening of the biblical concept of marriage have produced a situation in which marriage is in big trouble, even among many Christians. Divorce must be listed first among the ills that have befallen marriage in recent decades, but at the New Attitude Conference I was asked to address young singles who had not yet married. While the problem of divorce must always be acknowledged and confronted with biblical truth, in speaking to never-married single Christians my purpose was to point them to the glory of God in the comprehensive goodness of marriage. Speaking to that audience, I addressed a problem much closer at hand.
--------------

Here, Mohler reveals his deliberately short-sighted approach to the issue. I submit that such short-sightedness is an important factor in divorce rates in the church. Mohler intentionally focuses on getting married at the expense of stressing the importance of staying married. What good is the former without the latter? I think it is illegitimate, not to say unbiblical, to separate the two.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Hey Everyone!

Again, I think the issue is scriptural. I heard absolutely no exegesis at all when they were talking about protracted singleness.

Also, the fact that things can produce bad habits are not, in and of themselves, indications that there is a problem with them. For example, a thirty year old woman may have difficulty submitting to her husband who is much younger, but does that mean that there is something bad about older women marrying younger men? It would contradict the very premise of the discussion!

Yes, we all can develop bad habits in any number of situations. That does not mean that we are sinning because we are in those situations. In fact, there are even bad habits that can develop in marriage. Does that say something about marriage? Of course not.

All I think that this whole discussion proves is that everyone is a sinner. No matter what your situation, you are going to have to struggle against all kinds of sin. Whether you are in protracted singleness, young singleness, early in marriage, late in marriage, or whatever situation, we are sinners, and we must fight against sin at all costs.

It is encouraging to me that people are beginning to take the idea that delay of marriage is a sin less and less seriously. More and more pastors that I hear on places like SermonAudio are taking positions that are either ignoring, or attacking this position. In time, these ideas will simply die out. However, unfortunately, the remains of errors in the church generally stay for a long time.

God Bless,
Adam

Anonymous said...

This is Anon from 9:48AM again with a follow-up thought.

Thinking about this again I really have to wonder why they gave at least implicit support for older women seeking younger men. I mean that works against their support for marriage. Let me explain.

Generally, despite some shifts in the recent past, women marry older men and men marry younger women. At least that holds true for any significant age gap. +/- 1 or 2 years may not see a gap in men and women marrying younger (not sure) but you get 5+ years and it is generally easier for men to marry younger than women. Thus you have them giving at least implicit support to women doing something that will inherently lower their chances of marriage.

Also women seeking younger men, when successful, make it harder for younger women to find eligible men their age (you know smaller prospect pool and all, and you know how Boundless likes to harp on the 'lack of eligible men' as it is). Thus older women seeking younger men make it harder for younger women to fulfill Boundless's directive for people to marry young. And since the young male prospect pool is now smaller you end up forcing those poor younger women into marrying those despicable older men who the older women have already deemed 'not marriage material'.

Anonymous said...

Maybe boundless should be addressing the modern woman's tendency of hanging out for long as possible for marriage and then bewailing her fate when her biological clock hits the wall.

TMink said...

Thanks for the info Wombatty.

And Puritan, you hit the nail squarely. What about Paul's exhortations to NOT marry?

Trey

Jake said...

Mm, but I like boundless. =) Having followed their articles for a long time, I know that they give good support and encouragement to singles at times, too.

I've never listened to their podcasts, though. Maybe they have a different flavor.

wombatty said...

Trey:

Mohler does address Paul's exhortations not to marry, but, like Boundless & Maken, insist that Paul is only speaking of those whose lives are wholly devoted to ministry such that marriage would be impractical. I disagree, but that is what they say...

Jake:

The problem with Boundless (and Mohler), as expemplified by what Ted had to say on the podcast, is that they insist that men are almost wholly to blame. They love to prattle on about the 'adultescence' of men while all but excusing women for any 'marriage-delaying' behavior they might engage in themselves.

And, as you can see in Mohler's article, he deals with the factors of our 'societel environment' vis-a-vis marriage (e.g. divorce and its attendant industry, entrenched feminism, etc.) in a very perfunctory fashion after which he 'gets back to the basics'. And what are those 'basics'? Men are immature, men don't want to be responsible, men don't want to step up to the plate, etc, etc. In short, men suck!!

To make this clear, Mohler followed up with an article (Debating 'Singleness as a Sin') responding to Camerin Courtney's reubttal to his intial article. Mohler writes:

------------
Addressed to Men

Given this commitment and hope as articulated by these thoughtful young women, it should be clear that when I spoke of a pattern of sin in the delay of marriage, I was certainly not attributing that sin to them. To the contrary, as one who believes wholeheartedly in the biblical pattern of complementarity and in the male responsibility to lead, I charge young men with far greater responsibility for this failure.

The extension of a "boy culture" into the twenties and thirties, along with a sense of uncertainty about the true nature of male leadership has led many young men to focus on career, friends, sports, and any number of other satisfactions when they should be preparing themselves for marriage and taking responsibility to grow up, be the man, and show God's glory as husband and father.

I am not calling for high school students to marry, and I am certainly not suggesting that believers of any age should marry thoughtlessly, carelessly, and without sound spiritual judgment. But I am most emphatically arguing that this delay of marriage now presents the church with a critical test: We will either recover a full and comprehensive biblical vision of marriage in all of its glory, or we will soon find believers so accommodated to the culture around us that all we seek in our marriages is to do marginally better than what we see in the world.
------------------
All of the points in my previous posts apply equally here.

Here also, I think it's revealing that Mohler makes clear he is addressing the delay of marriges, but does not address the dismantling of marriages. While men might well be more responsible for the former, women are much more culpable for the latter, which no doubt contributes to the former. But back to basics...

Until Mohler et al. become willing to 1) acknowledge the part women play and 2) hold them responsible for it, they don't deserve to be taken seriously on this subject.

Alphadominance said...

Wombatty,

You seem inclined to believe that extension of boy culture is a result of men's choices rather than a response to a society that has systematically emasculated them. It is hard for most men to attract women who make more than them. It is difficult to start a family when one can't afford a house on even two salaries. It is difficult to take the lead when society institutionalizes female primacy. I would suggest that men are extending boy culture for lack of alternatives. If we were to go back to the dynamics of society in the fifties, when any man willing to work could earn enough to support wife and family and homes and education and health care and retirement were more than pipe dreams for most men, you would see a marked reversal of this trend. I guarantee it.

wombatty said...

Alphadominance wrote:

Wombatty,

You seem inclined to believe that extension of boy culture is a result of men's choices rather than a response to a society that has systematically emasculated them.


Wow - not sure how you got that impression. From my above posts:

And, as you can see in Mohler's article, he deals with the factors of our 'societel environment' vis-a-vis marriage (e.g. divorce and its attendant industry, entrenched feminism, etc.) in a very perfunctory fashion after which he 'gets back to the basics'.

[...]

Here also, I think it's revealing that Mohler makes clear he is addressing the delay of marriges, but does not address the dismantling of marriages. While men might well be more responsible for the former, women are much more culpable for the latter, which no doubt contributes to the former.

Until Mohler et al. become willing to 1) acknowledge the part women play and 2) hold them responsible for it, they don't deserve to be taken seriously on this subject.


The quip about 'getting back to basics' was sarcasm, by the way...

I would suggest that men are extending boy culture for lack of alternatives.

That's kinda been my whole point. How did I leave the oppposite impression? Btw, I wouldn't concede that bachelors are necessarily indulging in a 'boy culture'.

Alphadominance said...

Wombatty,

I took this to mean that.

Given this commitment and hope as articulated by these thoughtful young women, it should be clear that when I spoke of a pattern of sin in the delay of marriage, I was certainly not attributing that sin to them. To the contrary, as one who believes wholeheartedly in the biblical pattern of complementarity and in the male responsibility to lead, I charge young men with far greater responsibility for this failure.

The extension of a "boy culture" into the twenties and thirties, along with a sense of uncertainty about the true nature of male leadership has led many young men to focus on career, friends, sports, and any number of other satisfactions when they should be preparing themselves for marriage and taking responsibility to grow up, be the man, and show God's glory as husband and father.


I read it in isolation in my most recent visit so maybe it lacked context but it seemed to say men are shirking and it's primarily their fault to me.

Amir Larijani said...

Anonymous says: Maybe boundless should be addressing the modern woman's tendency of hanging out for long as possible for marriage and then bewailing her fate when her biological clock hits the wall.

Actually, Ted remarked about that once. And the backlash was huge.

In most of the cases I've seen, I don't blame the women as much as I blame (a) their parents, and (b) their shoddy excuse a church experience that passes as "youth ministry".

In terms of the guidance that young men and women get in their high school-college years, it is deplorable.

What the ladies don't realize is that the math is not on their side: if they wish to marry, have a family, and be a SAHM, they'll need to marry earlier, not later.

As for the men, they are under the gun to get established in careers so they can be breadwinners. Trouble is, it takes years to go to college, get settled and established, save up money for a house, etc.

Ergo, the men who aspire to marry, need to marry later--but not too late--whereas the women who aspire to marry, need to marry earlier--but not too early.

Meanwhile, we have Mohler, Maken, and their Amen Corner screaming, "Get married...quickly! That will cure sex addiction and loneliness! Besides, it is your Christian duty!"

Fact is, there is no perfect formula for when to marry. I know folks who married in their teens, and are happily-married 15 years later. I know folks who married in their mid-20s and didn't last 12 months. I know folks who married late--I'm talking in their 50s--and are happy.

I'm engaged at 42. She's 28. I would have rather been married 19 years ago, but that wasn't my call. I take the breaks as I get 'em.

wombatty said...

Alpha:

Ok - it makes sense now. You interpreted the quote correctly, it's just that I didn't say it - Mohler did. The quote is from Mohler's articleDebating 'Singleness as a Sin' that I cited in my July 9, 2009 11:36 AM post (right before your first).

I set off the entire quote between dashed lines after writing

Mohler writes:

I wish there were more html commands available for posting to make it clearer when you're quoting something.

Alphadominance said...

Oh, my bad. Some tags that work well to differentiate are the ones shown below the comment box like the "b" or "i" or even "blockquote" in the angular brackets. The ones below are the open tags, and to close it they'd be the same with a forward slash prior to the letter or whatever. Let me try one here with spaces between the characters and see if I can get them to appear, typically they'd be invisible in the end result.
< blockquote > blah Mohler quote blah < / blockquote >
In practice you'd just drop the spaces.

Alphadominance said...

There, that did it. Try that if you like.

wombatty said...

thanks Alpha. I didn't use the 'i' or the 'b' because I wanted to highlight certain lines within Mohler's quote with those tags. I tried using < quote >blah, blah < /quote > and that didn't work. I was unaware of the blockquote one. Thanks again.

Novaseeker said...

Ugh.

It appears to me that Mohler (I am not very familiar with him -- I am an Orthodox, not a Protestant) is basically twisting the leadership role of men to skewer and blame young men for the situation of the marriage market among the young.

That seems utterly futile to me. Men are not in control of the culture now, unless Mohler has not noticed. That culture now exists as a huge social/legal edifice that impacts Christians as well as secular people. To blame young men for the delay in marriage and the resulting lower marriage rates without addressing the true social and legal reasons for this -- many of them relating to women themselves wanting financial independence before thinking about marriage to begin with -- is simple-minded, old-school chivalry which is more an indication of being out of touch with contemporary reality than anything else.

As for the idea that not being married is "kinda, sorta like sinning", how does he get around Paul:

"Now concerning virgins, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin. Yet those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that. I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as thought they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as thought they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. . . .

If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his fiancée, if his passions are strong, and so it has to be, let him marry as he wishes; it is no sin. Let them marry. But if someone stands firm in his resolve, being under no necessity but having his own desire under control, and has determined in his own mind to keep her as his fiancée, he will do well. So then, he who marries his fiancée does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.

A wife is bound as long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, only in the Lord. But in my judgment she is more blessed if she remains as she is."


1 Cor. 7:25-31, 36-40.

Cont'd below.

Novaseeker said...

Continued ...

It seems clear enough to me that the hierarchy of celibacy is not, in Paul's mind at least, reserved to those engaged in ministry. Are we to assume he expects widows to engage in ministry as well? Yet he repeats he thinks it is more blessed for them *not* to marry.

In fact, one would think Mohler and Maken would be Roman Catholic if they really believe Paul is speaking of celibacy here as being for those involved in ministry, as it is only the Catholic Church that restricts ordination (above the diaconate) to celibate men. The rest of Christianity has always had to interpret this article for what it says: celibacy is most pleasing to God, and marriage is a condescenscion to allow for the reality of human passion, and a way to channel that in a way that avoids sin and promotes spiritual development and the life in Christ. But Paul is very clear here that for those who feel that they can control their passions (hard to do, admittedly), will "do better" to avoid marrying than to marry.

Of course that doesn't mean Christianity has been anti-marriage. But it has also never, ever been anti-celibacy. In fact, celibate Christians have always had a prominent role in the Church, whether ordained or not. Some people are called to each, but one should not lament that many are called to celibacy, as long as those who are celibate are living out that life of celibacy in Christ.

I can't help but think that Mohler has more of a social agenda than a specifically Christian one. Has it occurred to him and to Maken that perhaps under the current circumstances the Holy Spirit is calling more men and women to the celibate life in Christ, to live their lives as visible martyrs in resistance to the current culture of divorce and relational mayhem?

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

Nova wrote:

Men are not in control of the culture now, unless Mohler has not noticed. That culture now exists as a huge social/legal edifice that impacts Christians as well as secular people. To blame young men for the delay in marriage and the resulting lower marriage rates without addressing the true social and legal reasons for this...


Mohler, Maken, et al. basically have the attitude that women are almost purely reactionary. That is to say, that whatever women do, it is in direct response to what men do. Thus, if women are seen to be engaging in behavior that might delay marriage, it is only because men aren't displaying proper, biblical leadership and 'stepping up to the plate'. If only men would grow up, the reasoning seems to go, women would automatically melt in submission to that leadership and we could all live happily ever after. In keeping with this notion, I wouldn't be surprised if Mohler was among those who think that if men didn't suck so much, their wives wouldn't file for divorce as often as they do. Just remember, it's all his fault.

Of course, this is all a 'fairy tale' - and not a very good one at that. Women are not some kind of glorified puppet-robots that simply react to male inputs; they do have minds of their own and are fully capable of making poor decisions independent of anything men do. But enough of these inconvenient truths, let's get back to basics!! Take it away Al....

Anonymous said...

"I wouldn't be surprised if Mohler was among those who think that if men didn't suck so much, their wives wouldn't file for divorce as often as they do."

As is often said here, "to ask the question is to answer it".

Novaseeker said...

"Women are not some kind of glorified puppet-robots that simply react to male inputs; they do have minds of their own and are fully capable of making poor decisions independent of anything men do. But enough of these inconvenient truths, let's get back to basics!!"

Indeed.

I mean, no matter *what* leadership men exercise, if the law and culture do not back them up on this, it is a huge risk. There are certainly fantastic women who merit the risk, because with them the risk is much lower. But men like Mohler need to understand that for most men, most women appear pretty risky, and that riskiness can't be controlled by "being better men". Biology plays a role, unfortunately, as well as spirituality, particularly when the spiritual guidance ignores that biology, instead of guiding women in finding ways to cope with it.

wombatty said...

I mean, no matter *what* leadership men exercise, if the law and culture do not back them up on this, it is a huge risk.

Indeed. The problem is that regardless of anything else, women know that they have the upper-hand in a marriage relationship due to legislation & family courts. Guys know it too and they know there is nothing they can do about it. I remember reading of a guy who, every time he would get into a heated argument with his wife, she would calmly get out the divorce papers and quietly begin filling them out. He got the hint and just held his tongue.

Just to be clear, this is not a slam on women per se. I believe men would react similarly if shoe was on the other foot.

We have a situation where our government is actively pandering to the worst in human nature - in this case women in particular. Our laws and courts encourage, endorse and reward women who seek to abuse the power government has granted them over their husbands via divorce law.

The likes of Mohler, Maken and many at Boundless carry on and on about the importance of getting married and brow-beating men into 'stepping up to the plate', but I don't hear them addressing the issue of divorce in the church with nearly the same passion. Sure, they'll talk about it some, lament the tragedy of it all and quote a few verses on the subject - but that's it. Mohler's article above is a perfect example; he mentions divorce a couple of times in passing and then 'gets down to the basics' of bashing - I'm sorry, encouraging - men. Apparently staying married isn't a basic issue for Mohler.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Novaseeker,

Actually, Mohler interprets 1 Corinthians 7:9 to mean that there is a gift of celebacy that is given to a small number of people, and he takes the phrase "burn with passion" to mean that, if you have sexual desire, it is your duty to get married. In other words, for Mohler, it is not a matter of control, but a matter of "removal of sexual desire" for "gospel service."

I have pointed out before the issue of self control from this passage as well. However, I think that one needs to distinguish between someone who can't control themselves, and someone who won't control themselves.

God Bless,
Adam

PuritanCalvinist said...

Novaseeker,

I should also point out that the followers of this position have been extremely friendly to Roman Catholicism. For example, Candice and Steve Watters had a Roman Catholic guest on to talk about Pope John Paul II's "Theology of the Body." I have had women write to me and tell me that they have joined the Roman Catholic church precisely because they were unable to convince their evangelical church of this perspective. Roman Catholics certainly aren't complaining, lets just put it that way.

God Bless,
Adam

Novaseeker said...

Adam --

No, I would expect that Roman Catholics would be receptive to a theology of celibacy -- it's a strong part of the Catholic tradition. But I'm not sure precisely what theology you were referring to when you talked about evangelical converts to Catholicism.

In any case, I can't really see how Mohler's interpretation of Paul has any merit. Paul explicitly says a few times that celibacy, if you can control yourself, is better. I think it clearly says if you "have your own desire under control" then celibacy is preferred. The KJV phrases it as "have power over his own will" and the RSV reads "having desire under his control". So to me, Paul is saying if you *can't* control yourself for Christ, then marry. And it is not bad, but the ones who can control themselves are more blessed. There is a hierarchy there. As for those who can, but won't -- again I would say that the "won't" is covered already by being excluded from the "can't".

Do you think he is just sidestepping that, out of discomfort with the text?

Kevin in Manila said...

Hey guys,

I've been reading the discussion but haven't had much time to comment. Just want to say I appreciate everyone's input and this (as always) is a thought-provoking blog.

One of these days I'm going to write an article on singlechristian.org on the "gift of celibacy." In short, I don't think it is biblical--at least, not the way I keep seeing it described.

But I'm super-busy with ministry and that post will have to wait.

TMink said...

When I was distant from the Lord for a couple of decades, I got involved in the secular men's movement. One of their positions is that men are made and do not spontaneously grow from boys.

They posit that we are initiated into manhood by older, initiated men of power and wisdom. They point out that in the west we have given away or ignored the rituals that accomplish this transformation.

The ideas strike me as having some validity, even though the source is not Biblical. Any thoughts bros?

Trey

Amir Larijani said...

TMink: Of course it's Biblical. Much of the context of Proverbs involves a father speaking to his son.

That's a case of a man molding a boy into a discerning, prudent man.

TMink said...

Well gee Amir, you are spot on. Our tradition of elders fits as well. Excuse me while I say "duh" or maybe even "doh."

What about the initiation part?

Thanks pal.

Trey

Amir Larijani said...

TMink: Depends on what you mean by "initiation". Obviously, there is a process (or event) in which the father lets go, letting his son be more independent.

Whether that is a singular event, or a process, might be a case of "less filling/tastes great", but the Scripture does not specifically command how that must happen.

Ben said...

Hi everyone, I wasn't sure what post I should leave this comment under, so I left it here.

I think it is clear that a large part of the problem is the divorce laws. What would you think about a movement to have Christians not get government marriage certificates anymore and instead sign a contract prepared by the church?

Marriage disputes etc. could be heard by Church elders or some designated person that is part of the church denomination.

Most Christians seem to worship the state, so I don't think they would go along with it. I think this model would work better though.

singlextianman said...

Gentlemen all, I commend you for your involvement here.

Novaseeker: I welcome your comments and perspective at my revived blog; where posts will be perhaps sparse at times. (I hope for quality over quantity, and less about me).

.. My knowledge of Orthodoxy is mostly "book knowledge" though I have worshipped gladly alongside Russian Orthodox.

TMink said...

Amir, in terms of initiation I think of things like first communion or confirmation. My denomination, conservative Presbyterians, have a good process for joining the congregation that is a de facto initiation.

You ask to join, go to several Sunday School classes to learn the ropes theologically, you are interviewed by two elders, then stand before the congregation and confess Christ.

The process is a bit of an ordeal, and I think that is appropriate! It gives the church elders the time and chance to make sure you are a believer and like minded, and it gives the people joining a chance to earn their spot in the church.

For teen age boys, there is little like this. I think becoming an Eagle Scout would fit as an initiation. Honestly, I need to improve my familiarity with the Old Testament in order to look for similar rituals. But off the greying top of my head, the calling of David comes to mind. He was chosen and annointed.

As I do my duty and improve my knowledge of the OT, I will post anything I find.

Trey

SavvyD said...

I've known a few men who are not ready for relationships for whatever reason--they want their careers to be more stable, or have had to change careers. Sometimes it just takes the right person at the right time. I met a man at church who I really liked who is extremely intelligent and rather reserved. I was hopeful there might be some connection and am very sad that there wasn't.

But there ARE men who DO have things wrong with them and when I meet them, I run! (then blog about them--like the guy with an MA in Theology who pulled my hair thinking it would turn me on then made disrespectful sexual comments to me.)

Alphadominance said...

Savvy D,

Lots of gals like their hair pulled just right. Perhaps he just didn't have the stones to pull it off?

SavvyD said...

What I find difficult about relationships is that when I was younger I wasn't at all ready. I didn't know when guys were interested in me or how to encourage their interest. Then, not meeting any guys after my fiance and I broke up, I began a long stage of singleness without dates. Then I dated someone and it didn't work out. He had been married 14 years and had 3 children. I couldn't even keep up with that today. And now I'm just trying to wait faithfully and hang onto hope and keep praying. Today they tried to recruit me to be a nun because I'm single still and that could be a sign that I'm meant to marry God? I'm about to cry. Oh damn, I'm crying.

SavvyD said...

Alpha--He pulled really hard--twice. Told him to never do that again right after I said OW!