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

Monday, November 2, 2009

Marriage, Merit, and Manhood

Recently I penned two posts that talked about marriage as an indicator of emotional and spiritual maturity. These were entitled "Is Marriage a Marker of Adulthood?" and "Your Marriage Is Not a Ministry." You should read them, if you haven't already done so, to gauge my thoughts on the matter. Also read "Selfish Singles? (An Exegetical Challenge)," while you're at it.

Anyway, I wanted to say a few more things about the issues at hand, especially as they relate to men. Let me first restate something I wrote a little while ago in response to a reader [with a few grammar corrections]:
I am not trying to minimize the heavy sacrifices parents make. They need our acknowledgment and support in that matter. What I am questioning is whether or not they have a right to use their sacrifices to cast aspersions on single people who don't want the hardships of the married life. Because if we are going to open that can of worms, then I can work a similar angle on exceptional people who sacrificed a lot more than most married Christians in order to cast aspersions on married people.

What I am saying is let's not throw stones in glass houses. This fracas got started because some marriage mandate folks decided that casual singleness was unspiritual and that people need to get married to be on a higher spiritual plane. The marriage mandators also seem to indicate that men who are single for casual reasons are deficient in their manhood. At least that's how I take their statements. And I say in response that marriage should be entered into voluntarily and not out of some weird sense of religious duty, per se. I find so scriptural support for the latter sentiment.

When Paul gave the Corinthians a reason for not marrying, it wasn't "some of you are gifted for exceptional service." It was, "I want you to be free from concern" (1 Cor. 7:32). It's a very basic, mundane reason for not getting married. No talk of a high-falutin' irrevocable calling. No talk of being marked for marriage or for singleness. Just some practical pastoral advice that was non-binding (1 Cor. 7:27-28).
I stand by what I said. Marriage is not a call to ministry. It's a gift (Prov. 19:14) and it comes with responsibilities.

I want to clarify and perhaps tweak some thoughts, though, in case I'm giving the wrong impression on a matter. I do think that married people deserve special recognition, especially for raising children. We need to give them praise, encouragement and support to keep their family bonds strong. I retract any other statements of mine to the contrary. However, what we should not do is encourage a mindset where marriage and family is based on some selfish desire for status and recognition. If you want to be a spouse and have children to boost your self-esteem, you need to stay a mile away from the opposite sex. Other people's lives are not your stepping stone. Your actions need to be motivated by godly love and the desire to give it.

Moreover, to touch upon what I've already said, we should not diminish the spirituality, maturity, and manhood of those men who chose not to marry for mundane reasons. Not wanting the hassles of the married life is not a spiritual problem. Someone may retort, "Singles are lazy and disconnected from others." Which singles are you talking about? If you are talking about a 24-year-old who is not looking for a job, lives in his parent's basement, doesn't help around the house, and plays the Xbox all day long, then yes, you have a point. But that's a shopworn stereotype. There are plenty of bachelors who are earning their keep, active in their churches, etc. They may not be giving as much of their time and money as others, but they are staying in the game. If you want to engage in spiritual one-upmanship with the bachelors, then watch out. The measure you use will be you used against you.

If you are a married man, do you want to compare your sacrifices and your manhood to the Apostle Paul, who turned down marriage so that Gentiles you like you could hear the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:5)? The desire for female companionship must have meant something to the Apostle, after all, or else why would he have mentioned it? What about those thousands of young, unmarried men that died on battlefields for your freedom? They never had a chance of finding a good woman and raising a family. Or .... what about One who was a man like you, never knew the love of a woman, and yet hung on a cross for your sins? Are you a better man than He was when He was on earth because you're married and He wasn't? It's because of His sacrifice that people are even able to have the privilege of lifting their heads up with any dignity.

Nobody's knocking you because you chose the good life with a pretty spouse, smart kids, and a nice house. Nobody is saying you're less of a man for it. If you're walking in humility with God and in kindness towards others, you'll get no flak from me on that matter. But if you want to hang the "Kick Me" sign on the single man's back, then I'm calling you out on your nonsense. Yeah, you sacrifice, but rest assured, you ain't about to make the new edition of Foxe's Book of Martyrs anytime soon. It's something to think about, dear readers.

18 comments:

Dani said...

I was reading this Albert Mohler article (on this topic) the other day:

http://www.boundless.org/2005/articles/a0001093.cfm

One of the things that concerns me is that at the beginning he makes broad sweeping statements of what the Bible says defines 'a real man', and at the end he says the main problem is a lack of biblical maturity amongst men... but he doesn't actually defer directly to Scripture once.

Whilst I actually agree with him on some things (and disagree on others) it concerns me that scriptural assertions are being made when direct references to scripture are actually absent from the article. I don't think we need to back up every assertion we make with a proof-text. But on the other hand, theological assertions do need to able to be clearly demonstrated from Scripture and I don't think Dr Mohler really even attempts to do that in this article.

Furthermore it worries me that these types of articles/discussions seem to promote the goal and focus of male christian growth to be maturation from boyhood into an objective ideal of what makes a true man - (or girlhood --> womanhood). I can't help but think that this is far more Platonic than Scriptural to be honest. In fact I don't see that the Bible actually uses these categories of manhood or womanhood anywhere near as prominently as current christian thinkers seem to.

Rather, the maturation process described in Scripture seems to be that of sinner to saint. The language used is that of
sanctification, godliness and holiness, not that of growing from a boy to a man (or from a girl to a woman).

God's word exhorts us to grow into the likeness of Christ, not into the likeness of a real man/woman.

Talleyrand said...

The push to get men to marry is growing stronger because without the coercion of God (which these people are using) men are eschewing marriage in America because it is no longer an institution for Good, but evil and oppression.

Marriage should be something that does provide growth for a person, but then people should be free of violence too. Reality is different.

I have a lot of respect for you Anakin. A man that has principals and is willing to control his impulses is rare.

Keoni Galt said...

Excellent post Anakin. Not a bone of contention to pick anywhere, AFAIC.

The one thing that drove me away from attending church was the "holier than thou" competitive aspect of many of the members. They were constantly competing on who was living more righteously, and way too focused on the perceived faults and failings of others rather than worrying about themselves.

Anonymous said...

"There are plenty of bachelors who are earning their keep, active in their churches, etc. They may not be giving as much of their time and money as others, but they are staying in the game. If you want to engage in spiritual one-upmanship with the bachelors, then watch out. The measure you use will be you used against you.

If you are a married man, do you want to compare your sacrifices and your manhood to the Apostle Paul, who turned down marriage so that Gentiles you like you could hear the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:5)? ...What about those thousands of young, unmarried men that died on battlefields for your freedom? They never had a chance of finding a good woman and raising a family. Or .... what about One who was a man like you, never knew the love of a woman, and yet hung on a cross for your sins? ."

Here's the problem with this comparison, Anakin. As far as sacrifice is concerned, it goes like this - sacrificial singleness (like what you've mentioned, Paul, Christ, battle casualities) then the average married man, then lastly, the average man who is single for mundane reasons of his own liking.

"However, what we should not do is encourage a mindset where marriage and family is based on some selfish desire for status and recognition. If you want to be a spouse and have children to boost your self-esteem, you need to stay a mile away from the opposite sex...Your actions need to be motivated by godly love and the desire to give it."

There is probably some truth to the idea that people are drawn towards marriage at least partially for the status and recognition (or to avoid was has always been regarded in most cultures as the lesser status of bachelorhood or spinsterhood). It's not necessarily true that one must be primarily motivated "by godly love and the desire to give it" in order to have a good marriage. There many marriages with inauspicious beginnings that work out just fine, through the tranformative processes of necessary co-operation and mutual sacrifice.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Dani,

I *have* seen some of the scripture references that are used. The results are entertaining to say the least. I finally heard someone defend the idea that marriage=manhood, and to where did they run? Genesis 2:24, which says that "Therefore a man leaves his father and mother, and cleaves to his wife..." I just about had to pick my jaw up off the ground. The reason is because it is simply the difference between 'ish and 'ishsha [man in distinction from woman], and has nothing whatsoever to do with defining "manhood" in distinction from "boyhood" in any way.

Also, Dani, you will find that this is typical of this movement. Exegetically, this movement is falling apart. I have not seen their leaders try to interact with anyone exegetically in quite a while. We can only hope that people will be critically minded in the midst of all of this propaganda, and actually go to Google, and find articles from the other side, and see this for themselves.

God Bless,
Adam

Novaseeker said...

avoid was has always been regarded in most cultures as the lesser status of bachelorhood or spinsterhood

This has nothing to do with Christianity, as it appears in non-Christian societies as well. It has to do with denigration of those who have not reproduced -- a very Darwinian and therefore visceral denigration. That Christians, who are born again and regenerated into a new life in Christ, are interested in these non-Christian, naturalistic denigrations of the singletons is a reflection of how warped theology has become in our age. And, yes, Christians in the past took on the same naturalist-based hatred and contempt of the non-reproducing, to the scandal of Christianity in light of the NT.

Anonymous said...

"This has nothing to do with Christianity, as it appears in non-Christian societies as well. It has to do with denigration of those who have not reproduced"

In part, it was about reproduction, but it was more about manifesting evidence of maturity, enough that someone would be convinced to be your wife, as well as the responsibilities that go along with marriage and family life. Evidence that you are living your life for more than just yourself.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Anon,

If you are a married man, do you want to compare your sacrifices and your manhood to the Apostle Paul, who turned down marriage so that Gentiles you like you could hear the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:5)? ...What about those thousands of young, unmarried men that died on battlefields for your freedom? They never had a chance of finding a good woman and raising a family. Or .... what about One who was a man like you, never knew the love of a woman, and yet hung on a cross for your sins?

Anon, where are you getting this idea that the strength of manhood depends on the gravity of the sacrifices made? Could please point me to a chapter and verse?

I agree that we need to make sacrifices, and care for others. That goes for singles as well as married people. But why in heavens name do you get to set the standard here without a shred of scriptural support?

God Bless,
Adam

Dani said...

Thanks for that Adam.

Fortunately the 'movement' hasn't really made any significant impact in my part of the world (yet) and so a lot of this thinking is fairly strange to me. In fact reading some of these blogs (with all their abbreviations, tags and labels for things do to with the marriage mandate movement) seems to be like trying to read a foreign language at times!

However, in my opinion,one thing which the movement and christian culture here does have in common is a poor theology of singleness and a elevation of marriage/family which I fear is becoming increasingly and dangerously introverted. (That comment will probably set some cats amongst the pigeons!).

Anja said...

When I read this post, it was like getting a fresh breath of air, though I know that sounds much cheesier than ought to be legal. But the marriage mandate movement really does seem to be everywhere, and I wouldn't have known that what they teach is not what Scripture teaches if it was not for this blog. What is written here all makes so much sense, that I wonder why not more people are recognizing that it's wrong to teach that marriage is a more spiritual option than singleness. I see now that that's wrong. So thanks, Anakin, for the effort you continue to put into this blog. I really appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

"Anon, where are you getting this idea that the strength of manhood depends on the gravity of the sacrifices made? Could please point me to a chapter and verse?...But why in heavens name do you get to set the standard here without a shred of scriptural support?"

I could direct these same questions to you, about your contention that "growing in wisdom" equals manhood. You would agree that some people are wiser, and more mature than others, would you not? Likewise, some people make more sacrifices and care more for others than others (even Anakin seems to acknowledge that, in saying, "They may not be giving as much of their time and money as others". Wisdom must extend beyond the noble sentiments in one's heart - if they do not manifest in works, for others in particular (see James 2), then it pretty much renders your faith as "dead".

You yourself describe our culture as one "that will not serve God in any way including by having children, and thus, they end up serving themselves".

Make no mistake, these are things to be considered in matter of degrees -- "whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (2 Cor 9:6).

PuritanCalvinist said...

Anon,

I could direct these same questions to you, about your contention that "growing in wisdom" equals manhood.

You could, but it would be 1. ignoring the discussion we have already had and 2. ignoring the fact that the question was asked of you, not me.

Likewise, some people make more sacrifices and care more for others than others (even Anakin seems to acknowledge that, in saying, "They may not be giving as much of their time and money as others". Wisdom must extend beyond the noble sentiments in one's heart - if they do not manifest in works, for others in particular (see James 2), then it pretty much renders your faith as "dead".

I agree that we must show our wisdom by how we act, but where are you getting this idea that, the more wise we are, the more grevious the sacrifices we will make? Again, where is the scriptural evidence for this?

Make no mistake, these are things to be considered in matter of degrees -- "whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (2 Cor 9:6).

Anon, simply read the next verse:

2 Corinthians 9:7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Again, please read these scriptures in context. Paul is not discussing the fact that God has called different people to different purposes. He is dealing with a person who can give various gifts [probably monetary] to the ministry. Consider the previous verse too:

2 Corinthians 9:5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, so that the same would be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness.

Hence, we are in the context of giving of material possessions to the work of the kingdom, a context that has nothing whatsoever to do with what we are talking about. He is talking about a wealthy city like Corinth who can afford to give loads of financial and material support, and yet, refuses to do so. To rip this passage out of this context, and make it refer to sacrifice is to totally misuse this text.

Not only that, but his text has nothing whatsoever to do with manhood. Where is that in this text? Again, Anon, where is this phantom text that tells us that manhood is based upon how much someone sacrifices?

God Bless,
Adam

Sara said...

You could, but it would be 1. ignoring the discussion we have already had and 2. ignoring the fact that the question was asked of you, not me

*chuckle*

Anonymous said...

"the question was asked of you, not me."

You're evading the fact that you don't want the same scrutiny applied to you that you try to apply to others.

"I agree that we must show our wisdom by how we act, but where are you getting this idea that, the more wise we are, the more grevious the sacrifices we will make? Again, where is the scriptural evidence for this?"

We have been over this before, but obviously you're in need of its repeating -- sacrifice for others, caring for others, responsibility for others, giving to others...if you don't manifest your wisdom in these ways, then your wisdom (and manhood) isn't much good.

"He is dealing with a person who can give various gifts [probably monetary] to the ministry...we are in the context of giving of material possessions to the work of the kingdom, a context that has nothing whatsoever to do with what we are talking about...To rip this passage out of this context, and make it refer to sacrifice is to totally misuse this text."

Well, Adam, if you want to limit the eternal and transcendant spiritual principle of "you reap what you sow" to monetary giving, then that really calls into question how you glean wisdom from the scriptures.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Anon,

You're evading the fact that you don't want the same scrutiny applied to you that you try to apply to others.

Of course, that is entirely false. Why did we have our dialogue where I laid out my position, if I am so afraid of having my position scruitinized. The point is, you were the one who was asked the question, and it is your position that I want to put to the fire this time, to see if it can stand up to scrutiny.

We have been over this before, but obviously you're in need of its repeating -- sacrifice for others, caring for others, responsibility for others, giving to others...if you don't manifest your wisdom in these ways, then your wisdom (and manhood) isn't much good.

Of course, the issue is not sacrifice, but the gravity of those sacrifices. You have said that they must be at a particular level for you. I am simply asking for Biblical proof. You are simply skirting my request.

Well, Adam, if you want to limit the eternal and transcendant spiritual principle of "you reap what you sow" to monetary giving, then that really calls into question how you glean wisdom from the scriptures.

I thought we were talking about the principle, "He who soes sparingly will reap sparingly." Again, with regards to "You reap what you sow," read the next verse:

Galatians 6:8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Paul is talking about moral behavior. The one who sows in ungodliness, will reap in ungodliness. Please, read these scriptures in context.

Secondly, my point was not that of limiting it to monitary giving. My point was to say that the text is talking about giving in the context of overabundence, and not in the context of gravity of sacrifice.

God Bless,
Adam

Anonymous said...

"Why did we have our dialogue where I laid out my position, if I am so afraid of having my position scruitinized. The point is, you were the one who was asked the question"

Adam, what question are you talking about? I think you may be mixing up Anakin's statements with mine.

LadyElaine said...

Anakin:

Thank you....your blogs are an encouragement to me. I am praying that my sisters will stop allowing their desperation and loneliness to justify drinking the marriage mandate kool-aid.

Pagans_Are_Holy said...

Really, you just need to point out that as American Parents, all these Church going Sacred Parents, are SECOND-RATE PARENTS compared to many, many pagans.

Topping American Parenting just isn't that hard.

Are they willing to confess that the Pagans are on a higher spiritual plane than them because the Pagan is quite clearly a better parent?

That the Pagan has become "closer to God" because he "ministers" to his children better than they every have or ever will?