Debbie Maken-A Stubborn Refusal to be Corrected

I should begin this post by saying that I have tried, while studying here at Trinity, to sharpen my arguments against the idea that delay of marriage is a sin, and to make them more consistent with the Biblical text. I am not saying this to butter myself up. It has been hard work, and there are some days when you wonder if you will ever “get it.” You really have to persevere, and not give up even when you have gotten the last three questions wrong that the professor has asked you. With time, however, your progress begins to bear fruit. Now, whether I have succeeded in this, I will leave it to the reader to decide. We are not infallible, and so, there is always going to have to be a certain level of learning along the way.

I bring this up to contrast this with the attitude of Debbie Maken. Here is a woman whose last post was April 1, 2008. That is only about three months shy of two years. As many of you know, I have changed my views on passages such as Genesis 1:28, Genesis 2:18, Proverbs 18:22, and Malachi 2:15. However, I want you to listen to Debbie Maken on the radio program Centered Today with Dr. Don Belanus which aired on December 6, 2009. You can listen to the Mp3 here. Here are my comments:

:52-1:08 Only those who are advocating same sex marriage seem to value the institution?????? So, now, the only way you can value the institution is if you get married? Where is the proof of this?

2:02-Where does Debbie Maken, who has no MDiv, no Thm, no degree in theology or exegesis get off telling pastors how to preach from the pulpit? I wonder how Mrs. Maken would feel if someone told her how she should argue a litigation case!?

2:10 Wife of your youth??? Again?????? It is used five times?????? And, we assume from this that all five times have exactly the same meaning, or that any of these five times have the meaning we are trying to force on the text? On what basis? She will mention Proverbs 5, but doesn’t the sexually explicit context there make the phrase referring to the bliss of “youthful” [v.15-19] sexual pleasure in contrast to the folly of adultery [v.3-14, 20]? Or what about the rabbinic interpretation of Malachi 2:15 which suggests that the “wife of your youth” is the first wife in a long line of wives? Shouldn’t the phrase “wife of your youth” be interpreted in the context in which it is found, rather than in traditional Indian courtship practices?

2:27-2:45 A purpose which marriage was intended is wealth accumulation? What??????? Where is that in scripture?

3:00-3:17-We allow sin into our life by prolonging our single years????? What? I thought the Bible teaches that each man sins when he is carried away by his own evil lusts! Sin doesn’t come from delay of marriage; sin comes from a rebellious heart. And where in heavens name is this stuff about wealth acumulation coming from? Wasn’t this the same Debbie Maken who accused her critics of preaching a version of the health and wealth gospel?

3:50-4:02-People who would like to look for a mate are ridiculed????? Where has this happened?

4:44-4:50 Is Debbie Maken now agreeing with some of her critics that divorce, and, imparticular, no fault divorce is a problem?! Also, isn’t it amazing that we have had five minutes of this interview, and no anti male tirades yet! Maybe Debbie Maken has changed over the last two years.

5:41- Again, I have to wonder where Debbie Maken, who has no degree in New Testament, Old Testament, theology, etc. gets off telling people who preach for a living that they are somehow wrong in the way they are preaching, on the basis of a subject in Exegesis that she has never studied?

6:06-6:13-Taking isolated verses????? Anyone who has read Debbie Maken knows that she is a master of doing this very thing! Remember, “wife of your youth,” “Be fruitful and multiply,” “it is not good for man to be alone,” and all of the, what I like to call “soundbite exegesis” that this woman put out there for so long in 2006-2008?

6:06-6:14-So, now singleness is an “abhorational behavior pattern?” Debbie Maken is moving off into all kinds of wierdness at this point. All we have gotten in defense is the same kind of selective citation of verses that she accuses these pastors of using.

6:58-7:06-Again, a misuse of the Larger Catechism. What amazes me about this is that she even mentions the laws that the Puritans had for *engaged couples* delaying marriage unnecessarily. Almost every church historian I have talked to has said that Maken’s interpretation of the Larger Catechism is bunk.

6:50-7:18-I wonder if Debbie is going to mention that, in order to get this uniformity, she had to use scholarship that would remove sections of quotations from Hildebrandt’s Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation to mask the fact that Hildebrandt was really talking about the radical reformers, had to ignore the very statements from Calvin where he said that he did not believe in a gift of celebacy nor in a gift of singleness, but in a gift of continence [self control], and had to quote something that a church history professor read way back when he was in grad school, that he quoted to her from memory in passing. If you think I am being to hard on Debbie Maken, then read the documentation of these things here.

7:18-7:40-Nope, Debbie Maken hasn’t changed. I do find it commendable that she was able to go seven minutes without an anti-male rant. My optimism back at 4:44 was totally unjustified. How can a woman say these kinds of things knowing the kinds of evils that the feminists spue out there? That’s right, that is just a bogey.

7:40-8:18 Brilliant! Because we don’t take the interpretation of a woman who has no training in Biblical exegesis, who does exegesis on the basis of less than accurate citations from the reformers, we are causing young men to live with women and look at porn! Also, I do recall Debbie Maken admitting that the early church fathers did not agree with her interpretation. I guess there must have been a whole lot of sin in the Byzantine empire [actually, no there was not; the Byzantine empire was well known for its morality].

8:30-8:39-Debbie Maken doesn’t correct him, so I have to assume that she does agree with him that providence knows no place in whether we find a spouse.

10:40-11:00-What? Spiritual development takes a secondary role to producing Godly seed??????? This is one of the things that will always, in my mind, make Debbie Maken’s position entirely false, if not heretical. Marriage and children are more important to her than spiritual development. You know where this will lead? A lot of people with Godly seed, and foolishness and immaturity still in their hearts. When marriage and children take such an important role in your thinking that Godly development is secondary, you have a recipe for disaster.

11:45-12:05 Where does Debbie Maken get the idea that because marriage is “norminative” that, therefore, you will *have* to be married? Also, where is this idea that “very few” people are called to “celebacy,” and that it has something to do with missionary work?

12:05-12:40 Where in the world is Debbie Maken getting the idea that it is the mother who is speaking in Proverbs 5? Where in the world is she getting the idea that the speaker in Proverbs 5 is a woman at all??????? Has she bought into feminist interpretations of this passage? Also, the idea that this passage has anything whatsoever with when one gets married is totally bunk, and has nothing to do with the context. Yes, there is a contrast here, but the contrast is between sexual faithfulness, and adultery, and the goodness and beauty of the one over and against the bitterness and backbiting of the other. The context has nothing to do with when one gets married, or the complexities involved in what is “rushing into marriage,” and this phantom sin of “delay of marriage.” The urge is for the son to be faithful to his wife, and not go off to the foreign woman. The message is not “choose wisely,” but “here is the wise choice: Be faithful to your wife!” How you can twist that text into a text that is somehow relevant to “delay of marriage” is beyond me.

12:45-17:48 This is where Debbie Maken could be helpful. She is an attorney, and she has some competency in this area. If she would stick to this area, and deal with the problems that schools cause in terms of marriage, I think she could do a wonderful work. The point is that she already has the background for it. She understands loans as binding legal documents, and this part of the program is something where Debbie Maken could really do some good in this area.

13:26-13:30-One question, though. Since when does puberty start at 15 or 16 years old?

21:10-21:30 I wonder why Debbie Maken’s book is being picked up by Canon Press, Douglas Wilson’s organization. Douglas Wilson was the guy who took on Christopher Hitchens in the movie presentation Collision, which I would highly recommend [with the exception of a little explitive from Wilson at the end]. I have not seen anything on the Canon Press website yet about the reprinting of the book. Canon press is not near as big as Crossway, so, one can say that it will have much more limited readership. Still, again, here you have a woman with no degree in history, exegesis, theology, or anything else who is writing a book unusually accusing people by saying that “delay of marriage” is a sin. I would think that Douglas Wilson, as bright a guy as he is, would know better than that.

After listening to this interview twice, I am not so much now thinking that Debbie Maken is a heretic, as much as I am thinking that she is simply stepping out of her area of expertise. She had seemingly very informed views of debt and student loans, but when she treaded upon ground for which she has no training, she said some absolutely wierd and strange things. What this tells me is that the mistakes she is making in exegesis have to do more with the fact that she is not listening to correction, than that she is simply an out and out heretic.

It is one of the hardest things to learn, namely, accepting correction. However, when you are being trained in exegesis, it is vital. One’s methodology has got to be sound, and the only way it can become sound is if you accept correction from those who have been there before. Some of the things Debbie Maken said in this program were just plain wierd, and the things she says will continue to get wierder, the longer she refuses Godly correction.

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9 Responses to “Debbie Maken-A Stubborn Refusal to be Corrected”

  1. Amir Larijani Says:

    Early in the interview, she suggests that earlier marriage–“the normative time to marry”–is better for wealth accumulation. I would be interested to know where she got that idea, when in fact, from what I have read, marrying early tends to be correlated with less wealth accumulation.

    I’m all for earlier marriage–not a theological mandate, but as a practical reality. The best mates generally get taken early.

    But promoting earlier marriage, in and of itself–especially as a theological mandate–is promoting a Band Aid at best and false doctrine at worst. One cannot constructively promote earlier marriage without emphasizing that, in order for it to work on a larger scale, a fundamental shakeup in family approaches to teaching and preparing their children would first be necessary.

    Yes, past societies promoted–even expected–earlier marriages. But those societies were also structured in such a way that made it both possible and probable.

    I’m not saying that we must return to that type of framework on a grand scale. But if parents want their children to marry early, then it is on them to work on behalf of their children to (a) teach and prepare them for that stage of life, and (b) help them make good choices in the selection of a mate.

    In those past societies, a single did not operate in a vacuum, which is a problem today. The single had his/her parents and extended family, their church, their circle of friends–often going back to his or her childhood–working on his or her side. There was a low divorce rate. Kids grew up with certain expectations, made choices–in conjunction with their families–with respect to those expectations.

    Today, singles are navigating a cultural landscape that is not favorable. The single is paying for the sins of past generations: easy divorce, the fragmentation of the Church, the loss of community within the Body, the shoddy state of education within the Church. They are growing up largely unprepared for marriage. On top of that, even those who are ready to marry, are having to resort to untested, unproven, unconventional means to find a spouse.

    Simply telling them to get married, is as useful as a post-mortem colonoscopy.

  2. Amir Larijani Says:

    I would also submit that as she forays into government involvement–health care, education, etc.–she ventures into the la la land of unintended consequences.

    Where she speaks of student loans, she is correct. She would also have been right had she pointed out that parents ought to provide emphasis on pursuing life paths that create value, not merely make money.

    There are higher-ed paths for such–like 2-year colleges–whereby one can learn a trade or vocation, get out of school with little or no debt, and have a darn-near-recession-proof career that creates value AND brings in decent income.

  3. otrmin Says:

    Amir,

    Early in the interview, she suggests that earlier marriage–”the normative time to marry”–is better for wealth accumulation. I would be interested to know where she got that idea, when in fact, from what I have read, marrying early tends to be correlated with less wealth accumulation.

    She is probably getting it from some nonsensical misuse of scripture. Not only that, but go back and listen carefully to what she said; she said that marriage was the God given purpose for wealth accumulation, just as she believes children are [BTW, she holds to a position similar to the quiverfull movement, which is the background of her statement].

    I’m all for earlier marriage–not a theological mandate, but as a practical reality. The best mates generally get taken early.

    But promoting earlier marriage, in and of itself–especially as a theological mandate–is promoting a Band Aid at best and false doctrine at worst. One cannot constructively promote earlier marriage without emphasizing that, in order for it to work on a larger scale, a fundamental shakeup in family approaches to teaching and preparing their children would first be necessary.

    If that were all Debbie Maken were saying, I would have little difficulty. As far as the truthfulness of it, I am not an economist nor am I a sociologist, so, I will have to take your word for it, since I am a lowly exegete :-).

    I can tell you that I have experienced difficulty in my own field in this regard. Studies of the Hebrew Bible are extremely liberal. You almost have to go to a Christian university if you want to have any foundation at all for studying Hebrew as an evangelical. However, Christian universities also cost an arm and a leg, and you can end up $70,000.00 in the hole before you ever go to graduate school. Then you have graduate school tuition, and the only way you can really get a job in this field is if you have a Phd. If those loans from undergrad get called in before you get your Phd, it really gets hard. Add to that a terrible economy, and you are going to have extreme difficulty getting over the hump, and getting that Phd.

    However, I do believe I have been called to this ministry, and I have had to fight through difficulty in this area, as have most of my colleagues. It is hard to say what I would do now, knowing that there are other Christian schools that are cheaper than the one I went to, since there are professors and friends who have impacts on your life that you know God has put in your life for that purpose. Still, it would be nice to not have to get a Phd with that much debt.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  4. singleman Says:

    Early in the interview, she suggests that earlier marriage–”the normative time to marry”–is better for wealth accumulation. I would be interested to know where she got that idea, when in fact, from what I have read, marrying early tends to be correlated with less wealth accumulation.

    I would have hoped that the recession caused Debbie Maken to rethink her materialistic views. Sadly, it appears that isn’t the case.

  5. Gordon Hackman Says:

    Adam,

    While I can definitely understand your upset at the nonsense Maken teaches, her lousy handling of scripture, and her stubborn refusal to be corrected on almost anything, I really can’t help but wonder just how influential she really is in most places these days. For that matter, how influential she ever really was in the first place. As you pointed out in your post, her book is no longer printed by Crossway, and Cannon is a pretty small press. Douglas Wilson is and long has been, a controversial figure who is not widely accepted as an authority outside a particular facet of the reformed community the Christian community.

    The Christian media world is full of erroneous voices claiming this or that view as absolute truth, or the true biblical way, or condemning other Christians for this or that perceived error or failure. It seems to me that most of these voices attract some following, but generally fail to significantly influence the rest of the church. Debbie Maken seems to have a small and somewhat fanatical following, but beyond that, most people just don’t seem to care about her and what she says. Given that the reviews of her book on Amazon.com are almost equally split between positive and negative, it seems a large number of Christians are totally capable, even without formal theological training, of recognizing that something is very wrong with the views she promotes.

    Once upon a time, I felt very attacked by Debbie Maken’s views and felt the need to rebut them and defend myself, but the fact of the matter is that she has no power over most (any?) of us, and we are free to live our Christian lives apart from her pronouncments about the way things should be. I find that I am far happier since I decided to focus on following Christ and living my daily life and stopped feeling the need to justify myself or the state of my life to Debbie Maken and those who think like her. It mostly seems like a waste of time and energy, and a distraction from the real work of the kingdom.

    I’m not saying someone doesn’t need to point out the problems with her teaching and her attrocious theology, her mishandling of scripture, and her nasty, unChristlike attitude, but, in my opinion, you and Andreas Kostenberger and others have already done a pretty good job of that over the past couple of years. Maybe it’s time to let it go now.

  6. Dani Says:

    The more I hear and read of Maken and others who agree with her the more I think very poor exegesis of 1 Cor 7 (and ultimately poor biblical theology on the issue of marriage) is at the root of it all. It seems to me that it comes back again and again to the assumption that only singleness is a gift only for (as she puts it) the very few individuals who are called to be lifelong missionaries and therefore celibate.

    Using this as the grounding theological assumption gives her/others permission to put marriage forward as the absolute ‘normative behaviour’ for Christians (and therefore classifying singleness amongst those who are not called to lifelong celibacy because of missionary work as abhorations)

    It gives them permission to say that anyone with a normal, healthy sex drive obviously was never meant to be single and better get themselves married quick smart or they will inevitably fall into sexual immorality.

    It gives them permission to blame single christian men for depriving (or at the very least delaying) single christian women of fulfilling their God-ordained ‘normative’ purpose in life – to get married.

    It gives them permission to say a whole lot of things.

    One thing it does make me wonder (particularly about their inconsistency on this point) is:

    If, as they claim, the gift of singleness is a spirtual gift of celibacy given to specific individuals who are ‘called’ to lifelong missionary/ministry service
    AND
    Given Paul’s explanation as to WHY he considers singleness more conducive to the devoted ministry of such a person then
    THEN
    Why do our evangelical churches so strongly encourage marriage amongst it’s leaders/preachers/pastors/teachers? Why is it only for a ‘very few’ when Paul puts up such a persuasive argument as to why being single can allow you to be more devoted in your service of God and his people?

    It seems to me that there are gaps in their logic here (let alone their exegesis) big enough to drive a mac truck through.

    • singleman Says:

      It seems to me that there are gaps in their logic here (let alone their exegesis) big enough to drive a mac truck through.

      Dani, I think you’re being generous. Forget a Mack truck; one could fly the space shuttle through the gaps in their logic/exegesis.

      I actually tried to read Debbie Maken’s book several years ago to see what all the fuss was about. I finally had to put it down. In addition to the logic gaps you mentioned, I simply couldn’t take her negative attitude toward single Christian men. (Full disclosure: I am a single Christian man.)

      Despite these issues, Maken and her book received favorable coverage from groups such as Focus on the Family and their affiliated website Boundless.

      American evangelical churches tend to have fewer single men than single women. Now you know one of the reasons why.

  7. singleman Says:

    For anyone who would like to read a more balanced approach to the issue of extended singleness in the American evangelical church, I recommend Where Have All The Good Men Gone by A.J. Kiesling.

    Kiesling’s book isn’t perfect; some of her source material comes not only from Debbie Maken but Candice Watters, an author and Boundless contributor whose views on I Corinthians 7 are similar to Maken’s. However, Kiesling sought the views of single Christian men as well as women in developing her conclusions, and she made some practical suggestions for both genders.

    When Boundless discussed Kiesling’s book, it wasn’t surprising that they focused on her advice to single men. It’s too bad Boundless let their agenda get in the way of the useful advice Kiesling had for single women as well.

  8. TRincon Says:

    “Since when does puberty start at 15 or 16 years old?” – I think she means the youth of earlier generations. My grandmother got her first period at 15, circa 1930. Now, it’s around 10. That might be another issue worth addressing, since earlier puberty causes earlier sexual temptations, health risks later in life, and possibly earlier end of a woman’s fertility.

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