Interesting Article on Marriage and Intimacy

This article was interesting to me, and was shocking to me in many ways, this paragraph in particular:

Statistics show that few Americans wait. More than 93 percent of adults 18 to 23 who are in romantic relationships are having sex, according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. For conservative Protestants in relationships and active in their faith, it’s almost 80 percent.

We certainly live in a sex-crazed culture. They quote the assistant pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church (Michael Lawrence) as saying that we are sending mixed messages to young people, telling them on the one hand to wait for sex until marriage, but then turning around and saying that they shouldn’t get married until later. It sets them up to fail, he says. I couldn’t agree more. When Paul says that it is better to marry than to burn, there is a keen realism there that understands the sexual drives of young people. People who are struggling with this issue, then, need to get married. Paul is not saying that marriage is bad, far from it. But the struggle means that the person is not called to be single. It is amazing to me how difficult it is for some people to grasp this concept.

The article also makes mention of the “eharmony philosophy” that the perfect person is going to be dumped into our lap at some point. I prefer Voddie Baucham’s approach. While it is important to see certain things in place, it is also true to say that marriages grow into something wonderful. They rarely start there.

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29 Comments

  1. Joel said,

    August 10, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    “They quote the assistant pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church (Michael Lawrence) as saying that we are sending mixed messages to young people, telling them on the one hand to wait for sex until marriage, but then turning around and saying that they shouldn’t get married until later. It sets them up to fail, he says. I couldn’t agree more.”

    Same here. A big part of the problem is that there’s this modern-day expectation that everyone go to college. So instead of marrying at 17-18, a lot of people put it off until they’re 22-23 and done with college. And of course, as we all know, the universities today are not exactly friendly environments for maintaining purity.

    It wasn’t always like this. It used to be that only the most intelligent went on to higher education. Everyone else either took up apprenticeships shortly after junior high/ high school or went to a trade school. Now it’s a given that after high school you go to college (and rack up tons of debt), even if you’re a straight C’s student and destined for a 9 to 5.

    On the other hand, how many young people in today’s society are even mature enough for marriage? “Adolescence” begins at puberty and doesn’t end until age 35, according to popular dogma. Growing up is frowned upon. And who needs it anyway? Why take on all the responsibility of adulthood when you can get the reward (sexual fulfillment) without it?

    Joel

    p.s. Nice blog. :)

  2. greenbaggins said,

    August 10, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    Great points, Joel. Glad you like my blog. Welcome.

  3. Bill Brown said,

    August 11, 2009 at 2:41 am

    I’m sure no one is advocating marriage just because of sexual temptation. What if a young man (or woman) is patently immature in other areas of life? Let’s say laziness (not working), or of questionable character; should we still recommend marriage as a solution for επίθυμέω (lust)?

    I’m a father of an eighteen year old daughter, and this is something I’ve given much thought. On the one hand I would hate to see her leave my authority,but on the other I want to her to fulfill the plan God has for her life.

  4. Matthew Tringali said,

    August 11, 2009 at 5:38 am

    I primarily subscribe to this blog for all of the interesting work done here on FV. But this post is a great one. Thanks for sharing!

  5. August 11, 2009 at 9:39 am

    I read the original Christianity Today article a week or so ago, and it was fantastic. Definitely worth the time to read it in its completion. The author addresses all the common concerns with early marriage quite well.

  6. Reformed Sinner said,

    August 11, 2009 at 9:53 am

    I agree with the points of Joel. We are giving the young people almost an impossible task. Ask them to be sexuality pure despite knowing that sexual desires are real and deadly, and then ask them to wait until they are “successful” in life. Nowadays guys are encouraged to wait to their 30s to get marry, and women marrying in the late 20s are consider “just right.”

    As for Bill’s point that young people are too immature for a family. True. This brings me to a follow up point: extended family vs. nuclear family. I am in the firm belief that extended family is the best family core: parents are there to teach the children until they are well into their 30s (so when they get marry around age 16-24 they have role models of marriage, their parents!) And when their parents get old the married children take care of them!

    There: two controversial solutions in one post: young people should marry early, and extended family is better than nuclear family.

  7. August 11, 2009 at 11:33 am

    My wife and I married while still in college. At the time I was 20 and she was 19. We had a very short engagement also. The temptation to sexual sin was great, and we wanted to honor the Lord with our relationship. Yet, we often found that people (both within the church and without) thought that we should wait. Thankfully our parents supported us in this decision. Looking back I am so thankful that we married early.

  8. August 11, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Granting the points already made in these comments in regard to the value of marrying to avoid sexual sin, I have a few observations (which are in no way meant to be comprehensive, but merely some of the immediate questions that occurred to me) to throw into the mix.

    Realistically, a man usually finds it difficult to support a family if he has not achieved at least a Bachelor’s degree, and even then, the market often demands further degrees not only so that he can remain competitive in his field, but also in order that the family can be supported on his income alone.

    So how does the necessity of higher education, at least for the head of the household, square with early marriage and starting a family?

    If the husband is in school full time, the wife will likely have to use birth control and work full time to pay the bills until he graduates, or if they are convicted that birth control is a sin, then she may well have babies before he graduates, and have to put them in daycare while she continues to pay the bills.

    The other alternative is that neither of the young people attends college, the husband and wife both get low paying jobs because that is all they are qualified to do, and at least 2, possibly 3 of these lower paying jobs are necessary to support their growing family, and they can afford neither homeschooling (which requires an at-home parent) nor private schools, which are prohibitively expensive. Thus the children are of necessity sent to public schools, which further contributes to the breakdown of the family.

    Or the another option is that the husband gets as many jobs as he can fit into his daytime hours, so that his wife can stay home with the children, but with the result that he never sees his family, which makes spiritual leadership even more difficult.

    None of these, which are all real life examples, sound like good arguments for early marriage to me.

    Perhaps there was a time in history when a man could successfully raise a large family on his income alone without a college education, but by and large, and acknowledging the exceptional young man with unusual entrepreneurial skills, I don’t see that as viable today.

  9. rfwhite said,

    August 11, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    7 Annette: thanks for your thoughts. The challenges you highlight are illustrated by those men whom God calls to ministry in the Reformed and Presbyterian denominations in this specific sense: the ordinary path to ordination has a man required to earn a 100-hr master’s degree after earning a 120-hr bachelor’s degree. That process is a minimum of 7 years, more often 9-10 years. It is a rare man who completes that path without sacrifices from others, usually his parents, his wife, and even his in-laws.

  10. August 11, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    8 rfwhite, I absolutely agree — the process that leads to ordination is tremendously taxing upon the family. I tend to think this (the heaviness of the requirements of study) is one of the better arguments for a celibate clergy. But that can o’ worms is probably best left to another post. :-)

  11. rfwhite said,

    August 11, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    9 Annette: actually, on second thought, you could say that celibacy is the perfect complement to the topic of this post!

  12. greenbaggins said,

    August 11, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Annette, thanks for your points. Obviously, life is more complicated than can be pigeon-holed conveniently. I think that the situations in mind in the post and in the article referenced have more to do with “no particular reason for waiting.” There may well be good reasons for waiting. However, in my mind, no reason for waiting can be justifiable if it results in sin. That would be to say that hardship is worse than sin. I’m sure that’s not what you’re saying. We have to avoid one extreme of marrying too early by rushing into things without having thought anything out, and on the other hand, waiting simply because that’s the thing to do. Where one falls in between those things would surely be a matter for wisdom to decide.

  13. August 11, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    In re: “no particular reason for waiting”, I think it is true, also, that many people — unquestionably outside the church, but to a growing extent within as well — do not assume that marriage equals starting a family. It’s about love and personal fulfillment and gratification, why would anyone insist that we put that off? Meanwhile, the whole children question remains distant and optional. There is also a standard assumption that women are expected to (or plan to) work outside the home indefinitely, which means that young men are “off the hook” so to speak, in terms of having to be able to support a family when they marry. So, to the extent that young people a) do not expect to be having children any time soon, and b) expect the wife will work, there is really much less standing between young people and the tying of the knot.

  14. David Gadbois said,

    August 11, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    It is to our shame that in the Reformed community it is not uncommon for wives to be working to put their husbands through seminary. Somehow our doctrine of sexuality makes it so that, while we won’t let women into the pulpit, we will let them toil to put their husbands in the pulpit.

  15. Reformed Sinner said,

    August 11, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    #14,

    Just to echo what you say. In the seminary (and talking to pastors) I am shock that some people are envious to other men with bread-winning wives so that they can “concentrate” on their studies. More worry that in their tone and conversation they feel sadden that God didn’t give them gifted wives to do just that, as if their wives are holding them back and a burden to them. I remembered thinking to myself that something is seriously abyss here…..

  16. rfwhite said,

    August 11, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    14-15 DG and RS: there must be a better way. What is it?

  17. David Gray said,

    August 12, 2009 at 4:07 am

    >14-15 DG and RS: there must be a better way. What is it?

    Send men to the seminary when they are in their 40s and 50s.

  18. Reed Here said,

    August 12, 2009 at 6:50 am

    No tooting a horn here, just observing lessons learned.

    I sensed a call to the ministry in my early 20’s. I was actively involved in evangelism/discipleship for the next 6 years. I got married at 29.

    I started seminary at 30. I worked fulltime while attending parttime. We started having children at age 32.

    In God’s providence I stopped seminary at 33, with only about a year done. I continued to work fulltime to support our growing family (3 by age 36). I re-started seminary at age 36 – working fulltime and commuting one way to WTS 1-1/2 hours 3 to 4 times a week.

    I graduated at age 38, joined the PCA, and came under care. I took on a full-time intern position at that age, with 4 children. I was ordained at age 40, with 5 children.

    During this whole time I’ve served in various capacities in local churches, incuding both paid and unpaid fulltime pastorates (while working secular-fulltime).

    I frankly do not know how this came about, other than the relentess call of God that had to be answered. I used to joke that I wasn’t as good as David (ordained as a teenager), but not as bad as Moses (ordained at age 80.) I don’t joke about it any more. It has hurt quite a bit.

    In all this I’ve made many, many mistakes as a husband and father. Yet my prayer to always provide some semblance of a normal home life, including regular family worship, has been consistently answered yes by our Father. My wife and I are closer than ever before, 4 of our children have demonstrably vital relationships with the Lord, and the youngest (8) is working on closing with Christ.

    I don’t suggest my experience is the only way to do it. I’ve had times where I wondered what it would have been like to marry younger, and let my wife work while I went to school (she made good money.) Yet as I look at how Providence has orchestrated my life and its lessons, I wouldn’t change a thing. I see gifts, skills, abilities, especially degrees of the Fruit of the Spirit, developed in my life that I know would never have been there if I had my way and chosen an easier path.

    Simple observation for young men – make sure your priorities are rightly ordered. Your calling as pastor, the “shepherd-husband-father” of a local flock, will be substantially marked by your calling as a husband/father. This is reflected in the qualifications for elder including his demonstrable gospel-success in these callings. If you’re married, she comes first. If you have children, they come second. And seek a congregation that recognizes and values your committment to this ordering. All will be blessed.

  19. Heidi said,

    August 12, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Very interesting observations on wives being expected to put their husbands through seminary in the current ecclesiastical climate (the other options being massive debt or a husband who has no energy to be involved in anything in the home or out of it, because he is trying to support a family full time and keep up with classes — a way of life that would drag on for probably twice the normal amount of years as the class load would have to be part time); and it’s something of a relief to hear them acknowledged as all the people who simply advise my husband to go to seminary don’t get it — how are we possibly to do that when I am not well enough to work? We married young because we fell in love young and we expected that I would be able to help my husband through school — didn’t happen. Practically speaking, in order to stay out of debt and get through seminary in the normal amount of years, it seems one must go as a bachelor with the financial support of parents — or depend on one’s wife to work.

  20. Heidi said,

    August 12, 2009 at 8:51 am

    (PS — I don’t mean to sound ‘frustrated’ — though this issue has long been something of a personal struggle as in the current climate a wife feels responsible for putting her husband through — or keeping him back. In our case everyone without exception who has heard my husband speak or counsel has advised that he should be in the ministry; and I struggle as he would have been in the ministry, had he married another woman! In this I understand and am grateful for the perfect wisdom of God’s providences; I cite it only because I can’t believe that the climate in which this kind of struggle arises for a wife can have been the New Testament ideal as far as requirements for ministry. I found this post very sensible and refreshing and think young people should be urged to get married sooner, but the church needs to be instrumental in trying to change the societal structures that have made this very difficult, and I think that has to start with the church re-examining some of these issues. I was grateful it was brought up.)

  21. Zrim said,

    August 12, 2009 at 9:38 am

    If the general culture is sex-crazed, the evangelical sub-culture is fad-crazed. In the annals of popular morality, the young marriage fad seems the next logical step after the purity fad. The relative failure of the former doesn’t bode well for those presuming to take on sacred institution. Gulp.

  22. Michael said,

    August 12, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Slightly off topic—If we didn’t have to pay so much in taxes we might very well be able to raise our families while working jobs that don’t require higher and higher degrees and harder work against more competition. I’m not against hard work and competition either!

  23. Bill Stephens said,

    August 12, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    I seem to recall that George Marsden’s 1st biography of Jonathan Edwards had some discussion about how delaying marriage was effecting church and community in Massachusetts at the time that Edwards was in Northampton.

  24. Reformed Sinner said,

    August 12, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    #19,

    Thanks for the sharing. This is a bit off topic now but since it’s being talked about. Sometimes I wonder what happened to the good old Church support system? It seems like the Church has money for everything else but supporting seminarians: shouldn’t providing for the training of future leaders of the Church a top priority of the Church?

    (I’m asking this out loud because in my church I put in a system that supports full tuition and living wages to anyone that wants to be a seminarian and is committed to serve the LORD full-time afterwards. And our church is by no means a rich church whatsoever, it is just a small church with a small budget, but it can be done.)

  25. Reformed Sinner said,

    August 12, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    #18,

    Thanks to your wonderful sharing. I had a similar experience. I went to seminary at age 25, and married at age 26. I decided to take a full-time job to support the family AND study full-time at WTS. I refuse to let my wife work and I took on the burden of providing AND studying. Why do I do this? Same as David says, I need to be theologically consistent.

    I had dreams of studying up to the Ph.D., but after M.Div. I realized no way I can be a competent scholar while working full-time, so I stopped. Like Reed says, I am a pastor-husband first and need to fulfill these duties.

  26. Reformed Sinner said,

    August 12, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    #16,

    Challenge the church to step up and start offering full tuition and even living wages for people that are called to be God’s full-time servants.

  27. rfwhite said,

    August 13, 2009 at 7:30 am

    25 RS: since you mentioned that you needed to be theologically consistent, could you spell out what you mean by that theological consistency in a few sentences?

  28. Susan said,

    August 17, 2009 at 12:51 am

    #14 – Dear David:

    A husband and wife are free to decide as a couple when they will have children, who is to work, who is to stay home with children, who is to go to school, and the timing of these activities. You seem to be implying that it is somehow wrong for a wife to work to pay the bills (including seminary tuition) while her husband works to fulfill his calling to the ministry. Are you?

    P.S. It is not ‘we’ who ‘won’t let women into the pulpit’, it is the Lord Himself as He says in His Scripture…and rightly so, of course.

  29. November 18, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Sorry this comment comes so much later than the post. I just came across it and liked it. The world is becoming more and more sex-crazed, like you said, and that’s a shame.

    And as for marriages starting out perfect (I don’t think that exists, really) I am really inspired by my grandmother, who said after 50 years of marriage that it was finally worth it and she had prayed not to die until she had a better relationship with my grandpa. How many people today would work on a relationship for that long and not consider divorce?


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