The Dark Side of Evangelicalism-A Response to Accusations on the Boundless Blog

I have started to learn the way the politics of the church works. The politics are, in my mind, the darkest side of church life. There is a certain rank and status that certain individuals have, and those individuals can never be questioned, or you will feel the wrath of the entirity of their fans, and people who believe that anyone who just mentions the name “Jesus” should be accepted as orthodox.

The case in point is a recent radio podcast put out by the folks over at Boundless. Steve and Candice Watters were in Louisville, Kentucky for the Give me an Answer conference at Southern Seminary. While they were there, they interviewed Albert Mohler for their podcast. During the podcast, the following dicussion took place. I want you to read this carefully, and ask yourself if what Dr. Mohler says in the bold portion is consistent with scripture! It begins at 24:15:

Candice-Are you encouraged by Mark Regnerus and others who are encouraging early marriage, and do you think that this movement will gain traction?

Dr. Mohler-Well, I’ve been at that a long time, and I can tell you its extremely controversial whereas throughout most of human history that would be the mormal expectation. I am encouraged…It’s going to be a counter-revolution. We are literally going to have to stand against the kind of demographic tide that is coming at us, and say…you know, here is the question. I just want to ask you this honestly. I talk to young guys about this more than probably any other subject when they bring it up and say, you know, here is the issue: How are you going to be holy without marriage? And that’s a tough question to answer, unless, you know, if God has called you to missions, if God’s called you to special service and deployment in this area, then the word is going to compensate for that, but, for most guys, the big issue is just this now long wait.

Now, the first time I heard that, I was amazed at what I was hearing, I just about dropped what I was holding. The word of God only covers you if you are called to certain missions work???????? Where does that come from in scripture? The Biblical teaching is that the word of God covers us no matter who we are! Consider Jesus’ statement:

John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.

There is no exception given to this statement. *All* believers are covered by the word of God in every area of their life, period. Also, we have Ephesians 5:26:

Ephesians 5:25-26 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

Now, having established how grossly unbiblical this position is, you may be surprised to learn that, rather than dealing with my argumentation, there were people who saw fit to, instead, accuse me. First, there was a woman going by the name “Rebekah in SoCal.” She alleges that I took Dr. Mohler out of context:

Those comments are taken out of context.

Dr. Mohler’s remarks were made following a discussion of premarital sex and our desire for sexual satisfaction. He said we can satisfy these needs (sexual and relational) in marraige or by some other means. It is only after this that the question of “how will you be holy without marraige” comes up. He wasn’t saying that marraige is the only way to be holy, but rather that if a person has these sexual desires, what will they do to live a holy life when not married. Very similar to Paul’s discussion of sexual purity in 1 Corinthians 7.

Actually, I would invite anyone to go read 1 Corinthians 7:8-9 and tell me where in the world sanctification appears in that text. At best you could argue that Paul says that “it is better to marry than to burn with passion,” but where in the world are we getting the idea that the nature of this “better” has anything to do with sanctification? Also, notice how she misrepresents me. I never said that Dr. Mohler believes that marriage is the only way to be holy. What I am objecting to is this notion that for some people, marriage is the only way to be holy. However, she continues with this strawman right into the next paragraph:

at 18:00, Dr. Mohler says that marraige is A means of holiness and can lead to greater holiness and a deeper walk with Christ. (not the only way to holiness). But, this was a follow up to Candice’s comment that “some people complain that by focusing so much on marraige you really risk diminishing peoples focus on relationship with Christ”.

Again, totally irrelevant. What really bothers me about this is the fact that I quoted Dr. Mohler as saying that he believes that the word of God covers in instances of missions work, or what he calls “gospel service,” again, something totally foreign to Paul’s context. Even still, it shows that I was not saying that Dr. Mohler was saying that the only means of sanctification was marriage, but, again, that it was the only means for a large percentage of the population.

However irrelevant Rebekah’s statements were, you find praise for what she had said all over the blog, even though it never addressed any of the substance of what I had written. For example:

Thank you, Rebekah in SoCal, for posting that comment (#15). You said what I wanted to say, but much better. Kudos, sister! =)

Dr Mohler did have one defender, a man by the name of Trevor Dolby actually came up defending the indefensible:

Rebekah in SoCal (15): You beat me to it 🙂 I was listening to the podcast in the car this afternoon, and realised exactly what you said. The one thing I would add is that Dr. Mohler was also making the point that when God calls someone to a specific marriage-excluding mission, then He will give them the strength to live holy lives even without a wife.

Again, I have to wonder where these folks are getting this. There is nowhere in scripture where living a holy life is dependent upon whether you get married, period. Where in the world is that in the Bible?! If you want to point to 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, let us not forget that, only do you have the issue I raised above [living a holy life is not found anywhere in 7:8-9], but you also have to deal with the possibility that we are dealing, in context with self control issues when marital relations are broken up, either by willful refraining on the part of one of the spouses [verses 1-5] or by the death of a spouse [verses 6-9]. Gordon Fee’s argument that agamos [unmarried] should be understood as “widower” in verse 8 has got to be dealt with.

This is, of course, opposed to the idea that God will _always_ give men that strength, even if they ignore St. Paul telling them to get married!

Of course, Paul never virgins to marry to remain pure, and such is a gross twisting of 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, but, worse than that, Paul never discusses purity in that context at all! The issue he is dealing with the ability to control onesself, both in a marriage relationship, and after the breakup of that marriage relationship. Can a person have the ability to control his evil desires, and still lust? Cannot a person be married, and still end up looking at pornography, or cheat on his wife? Of course, because just because has the ability to control these evil desires, does not mean he will.. The issue of 1 Corinthians 7:8-9 has nothing to do with holiness or purity. It has to do with the bridling of our wickedness [not the taking away of our wickedness], and that in the context of someone who already has had a sexual relationship with someone.

God doesn’t guarantee to give us the strength to resist sin after we’ve ignored His instructions to avoid it. He gives us a way out, so that we may bear the temptations we come across, but if we refuse to take the way out, then He doesn’t promise that we won’t fall (hence Dr. Mohler asking the young men what he did).

Does he really believe that marriage is a way to “resist sin,” when the marriage institution itself has been affected by the fall [Genesis 3:16]?” Does he really believe that marriage is a way to resist temptation when you have married men who cheat on their wives, and look at pornography? Or, should we not look at what Paul says when he says that each man is tempted when he is carried away by his own evil lusts [James 1:13-15]. One of the problems with what Dr. Mohler is saying is that he things that pornography, unfaithfulness, and sexual sin come from natural desires which are intended to drive one towards marriage. That is not what James says, and it is not what Paul says when he says that such passionate lusts are related to the “heathen who do not know God” [1 Thessalonians 4:5].

In fact, the context of 1 Corinthians 10:13 has nothing to do with marriage at all! It is in the context of Israel trying the Lord in the wilderness. Note the context:

1 Corinthians 10:8-13 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

The context here is Israel’s grumbling in the wilderness, and specifically, the testing they received by God as to whether or not they were going to obey him, or blame him. If we think that we stand, let us take heed lest we fall seems like an appropriate answer to give at this point! Don’t think that just because you have gotten married that you are somehow immune to temptation! Worse, it is in this context that he says that he will provide a way of escape so that we will be able to endure it, and it is clear that this way has to do with trust in him, and not trust in our own ability to stand by getting married, having sexual relations, or something like that.

Again, I don’t know how someone can defend such a rediculous statement as “How are you going to be holy if you don’t get married?” Dr. Mohler really said something extremely off the wall here, and, as Amir Larijani said in his post on the Boundless Line, I have no clue what he was thinking! I am open to the fact that it was a misstatement, or that he meant something totally different by it. It is totally heterodox, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the text of the Bible at all!

Now, I would like to point out that I wrote most of this in two responses on the Boundless Line Blog. None of them got published. Now, I don’t think that necessarily means anything; technical difficulties very clearly exist in the world of blogging. I am writing this blog post partially as a way of defending myself against the criticisms that the Boundless readers made against me, not Boundless.

It is interesting, then, that Boundless editor Ted Slater chimes in with this:

Adam, why do you so love hating on Boundless? Seriously, you remind me of those “ministries” that point out all the heretics in Christendom, from Billy Graham to Dr. Dobson. It just gets boring and petty.

Ummm, where did I *ever* criticize Boundless in anything I wrote above? I criticized Dr. Mohler, and I criticized the Boundless readers, but never did I criticize Boundless at all. I don’t know where in heaven’s name Ted is getting this from. Boundless actually has a good variety of views on their staff, and the fact that Carolyn McCully, whom I have praised before, has written for them I think speaks very well to the wide variety of views you get at Boundless.

However, I want you to notice this attitude that Ted is stating here. If a respected Christian leader says something, we must automatically assume that it is true. If Billy Graham or Dr. James Dobson says something, it is automatically correct, no questions asked, and if someone does question it, well, we must be taking them out of context. Again, this superstar nonsense doesn’t just exist in professional sports; it exists in Biblical studies as well, and it is a sad thing to see.

I should point out too that I don’t even believe Albert Mohler is heterodox! I think it he just got into the moment, he was with people who generally agree with him in Candice and Steve Watters, and he just started saying stuff that would rile up the home crowd. That is why it is sometimes so hard to be careful and discerning when you are amongst those who agree with you, and that is why I seek to have dialogue with those who disagree so I can make it less likely to fall into this trap.

Ted continues:

You of all people should know what Dr. Mohler was talking about. You affiliate yourself with the Puritans, who proclaimed that God conceived of marriage to help us become more holy. (A concept summarized in the subtitle of the book “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas: “What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy.”) And yet you denigrate those who affirm such a conviction, and twist what they say to puff yourself up as some sort of expert on theology.

Actually, I do not affiliate myself with the Puritans. I used to be much like Ted is, and just be wild eyed at what my superstars of the faith [i.e. every Puritan author] had to say, but the professors here at Trinity cured me of that very quickly, when I started to see criticisms of their methodology of exegesis, and these criticisms being backed by sound linguistic studies in semantics and pragmatics. I also learned of things which the Puritans had no knowledge of, and saw how, for example, John Owen’s thesis on the inspiration of the vowel pointings is totally, as Dr. Magary put it, “dust.” I learned a very important lesson during my time here at Trinity, and that is that just because a scholar is *respected* does not mean he is always *right.*

Also, notice how Ted totally misrepresented what I said. *Never* did I say that I was saying Dr. Mohler was wrong for saying that marriage can, in a sense, be used of God to apply the word to our hearts in the process of sanctification. The issue is whether, for some people, it is the only means God can use as if the hands of the almighty are tied in terms of the way he decides to bring about holiness.

Secondly, I never claimed to be an expert in theology; I claimed to be able to interpret the Bible well enough to know that when someone says marriage is essential to living a holy lifestyle, they are saying something that is totally unbiblical.

Furthermore, I’m surprised that you so demean marriage, since it was my understanding that you were engaged, perhaps even married by now. Your cynicism about God’s gift of marriage just doesn’t seem consistent with your pursuit of it.

Where did I ever give any “cynicism” about marriage? I do believe that marriage is a good thing, and I do believe that the pursuit of marriage is a legitimate ministry option. However, I refuse to trust in marriage to give me holiness. I refuse the rank idolatry that is part in partial of the kind of position that says “Give me marriage, or I die,” even when they mean by that, “Give me marriage, or I die spiritually.” I actually believe that I honor marriage far more than folks who say what Albert Mohler does, because I refuse to let marriage become such an idol, that I cannot even live for God without it.

I am not the only one who has experienced this kind of thing this week. A man who I highly respect [although, again, I don’t agree with him on everything] is Dr. James R. White of Alpha and Omega Ministries. He has been in a dispute with Dr. Ergun Caner, the President of Liberty Theological Seminary, over some interesting statements with regards to Ergun Caner and Islam. Dr. White summarizes his disputes with these points:

1) Where was Ergun Caner born? Why has he given conflicting information on this matter? Did he ever live in Istanbul, Turkey? When? At what age, and for how long? Did he attend a madrassa there?
2) When did his family move from Sweden to the United States? Why has he given conflicting information on this? What was his father’s actual role in the building or design of mosques in Ohio? Why has Ergun Caner publicly said that before moving to the United States he had always lived in a “majority Muslim” nation? Is Sweden a Muslim nation?
3) When was Ergun Caner converted? At what specific age? Was November 4, 1982, the date of his conversion, or Emir’s?
4) Prior to his conversion, did Ergun Caner follow the dictates of Sunni Islam “devoutly” as he has claimed? Did he say the five daily prayers? Since those prayers are universally said in Arabic, why would he confuse them now, if, as he claims, he grew up saying them? Such items as the Shahada and the first Surah of the Qur’an (Al Fatiha) are repeated multiple times per day in those prayers. Why is Dr. Caner’s pronunciation of these things so flawed if, as he claims, he grew up hearing them pronounced correctly? Why did Dr. Caner claim in public that “Arabic was my language before English” and yet in his February 25th, 2010 published statement he said “The language of my lineage is Turkish, not Arabic.” And why did he claim he said the prayers in the high school bathroom, when this is forbidden in Islam outside of the most extreme conditions?
5) Dr. Caner has claimed to have “debated” in thirteen countries and dozens of states in the US. One newspaper in 2006 reported him as claiming to have done sixty one (a rather specific number) debates with Muslims at that point. Yet, he now admits these were discussions, dialogues, and the like. Why would the head of a “Global Apologetics” program claim to have debated leaders of many religions in specific locations when in reality he was only talking about chatting with folks informally? Doesn’t this amount to false advertising? Would the prospective students at Liberty find the claim to have “chatted with folks about religion all over the place” quite as compelling as claiming to have engaged in debates with religious “leaders” in thirteen countries?
6) Why did Ergun Caner claim, at least twice, in 2007, to have debated Sheikh Shabir Ally? He has admitted he has never debated Shabir Ally, and in fact, has never even met the man. But he claimed he did, even noting a location (Nebraska). Who was it that Ergun debated in Nebraska that he confused with Shabir Ally? I have asked him, and he refuses to answer. The only way to evaluate his claim to have “misspoken” is to know who he did, in fact, quote in his presentation from his “debate” in “Nebraska.” When did this debate take place? Can he document this?
7) He claims to have debated Abdul Saleeb. Abdul Saleeb is a pseudonym used by a Christian. It means “servant of the cross.” Why did Ergun Caner claim to debate a Christian, and put words in his mouth? And why does Dr. Caner constantly make reference to “Hadith 9:57,” when anyone who has actually studied the hadith literature to any depth knows that there are a number of authoritative collections, such as Sahih Al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Jami At-Tirmidhi, etc.? The correct reference is Sahih Al-Bukhari 9, 57.
8) Why did Ergun Caner, only five weeks ago, on a national radio program (the Pastor’s Perspective program with Brian Brodersen and others) claim that “formal debates” have been “taken over” by “myopic Reformed guys” who turn them into “show ponies” and examples of the “Jerry Springer Show” where no real conversation takes place, when in fact, this is documentably untrue on every level?

The sad thing is, even Muslims are starting to take notice of Dr. Ergun Caner. Here is a video in which a Muslim plays a clip from Dr. Caner, and just as Dr. White does, notes that Dr. Caner doesn’t know what he is talking about when he says that he rolled out his prayer rug in a bathroom. As both of them point out, you can’t do Salah in the bathroom. I would think any student of the most basic facts of Semitic culture would know this. Even Dr. White’s wife had to say, “That can’t be allowed!” The reason is very simple. In Semitic culture, human waste is unclean, and to have a holy prayer service such as the Salah in a bathroom would therefore be impossible.

However, I want you to note what the Muslim concludes from this fact [and several of the other facts mentioned above]:

Notice how the Muslim concludes that Caner was never a Muslim at all?! Now, all Dr. White is asking for his honesty and integrity in Dr. Caner’s ministry with Muslims so that he does not bring dishonor to the name of Christ by lying. Dr. White rightly points out that we need to be consistent with how we handle ourselves in the ministry. However, what has Dr. White gotten in response has been unbecoming of the Christian community. You can listen to his webcast where he discusses the matter, as well as his blog posts here, here, here, and here. As you can see, the responses that Dr. White has gotten are extremely similar to those I have gotten: “You are taking him out of context. You are just looking for trouble,” etc. No one cares about honesty and consistency anymore, and no one cares about honesty and consistency when you have these superstar leaders that we exault to the point where they can do no wrong.

Now, again, I have no clue what Dr. Mohler was thinking when he made these statements. However, the reaction I have gotten from people to this problem of the abuse and misuse of scripture in the context of marriage and children shows me the ugly side of evangelicalism, namely, the political, celebrity realm that has nothing what so ever to do with truth. I hope that, when I graduate, and I get that Phd, and start my ministry, that I remember to tell people not just to accept things because I said them. We need to have people who are being trained to go back to scripture, and test what any teacher is saying by the text of scripture. Also, we need to not automatically dismiss someone when they are having issues with what someone is saying. We need to discuss the issue, and deal with it in an honest fashion, rather than saying that a person must obviously be wrong if they say that a well respected leader is wrong.

All in all, I would say this is an issue for concern. People react strongly to the idea that Dr. Mohler could have been at best misleading by his statement to single men, “How will you be holy without marriage?” or at worst, heterodox or unorthodox. I have been very concerned that Dr. Mohler’s statements on this issue have been getting stranger and stranger, all on the basis of one text, 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, which has to have a boatload of assumptions read into it in order to make all of these odd statements stand up. However, as Dr. White said, in evangelicalism today, when one of its leaders is criticized, rather than caring about truth, there is an effort to “circle the wagons” in order to protect their own, with no attempt to care about what the truth of the matter is.

My real concern here is for the people who genuinely want to be married. They want to get married, and yet, still are following Christ in such a manner so as to keep things in proper perspective. As Amir pointed out to me recently, there is a whole culture of the church that is seeking to discourage people from marriage. These are legitimate issues that need to be dealt with, and need to be discussed in a Biblical context. When someone gives glib answers like, “Delay of Marriage is a sin,” or “marriage is something that is commanded for most people,” or, worse, “How are you going to be holy without marriage?,” we are simply not giving a Biblical solution to this problem. Instead, we are telling young adults to trust in marriage, and not in God, who is the one who can bring them together with their future spouse. I feel for these young people, because it is ultimately them who are getting hurt by all of these political games.

Politics is a reality in evangelicalism today. Amir told me that there are guys at Southern Seminary who “will hang on Mohler’s every word.” When he said that, I thought he was totally exaggerating. I guess each day you grow a little wiser, and a little stronger. If any of you are interested in this issue, I would invite you to write to Ted Slater and Boundless, and express your concern over what was said in this podcast, the the reaction following. Also, you can write to Albert Mohler, and ask him to please at least clarify what he meant here. I can only hope that, if enough people write them, they will see that this is more than just an issue of one renegade; this is an issue that has ramifications to the very ministry they want to do, namely, ministring to single adults who would like to be married.

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14 Responses to “The Dark Side of Evangelicalism-A Response to Accusations on the Boundless Blog”

  1. Amir Larijani Says:

    Adam:

    Yes, there are people at SBTS–and throughout the evangelical community–who will hang on Mohler’s every word. I call them the “Kool-Aid Drinkers”. That does not describe everyone at SBTS, but a lot of the guys get caught up in the Mohler persona.

    To Mohler’s credit, he is very intelligent. The best of the best. I’ve met him a few times. In person. Trust me on this: NO ONE–and I domean NO ONE–is going to just go into Mohler’s office and set him straight. I don’t care how smart you are.

    I will not bust Candice or Steve for going easy on him. Even if they disagreed with him, there was no way they were going to win on his turf. Mohler is a VERY astute conversationalist.

    Personally, I’m thinking he is trying to deal with a larger dilemma that he is witnessing as President of a seminary.

    When I was there, the average age of a seminary student was 33. Most students were married. (By the way: Mohler was elected President when he was 33. I was there when he was inaugurated.)

    Today, the average age of a seminary student is much younger. Students are more likely than ever to be single. These students–overwhelmingly–desire to get married.

    In addition to their studies and ministerial work, they are trying to find a wife. Imagine trying to do that while being 1,000 miles from your hometown and without a network of family and friends helping you to find a wife.

    This is not a trend with which folks like Mohler are accustomed. Against that backdrop, I can understand why he makes the case for earlier marriage.

    If I were married earlier–and I would love to have married earlier, but did not have success finding a mate–it would have settled a lot of matters early, and freed me from a quest that has drained me of serious time over the years.

    If Mohler would speak in terms of advice and recommendations–I would have no stew.

    The right answer here is not a knee-jerk approach of creating commandments–where Scripture does not, but rather recommendations from a practical standpoint.

    Personally, I think Boundless focuses on the latter over the former. Maken blows it by focusing on the former over the latter.

    Mohler is somewhere between the two, as he is attempting to address a larger social dynamic.

    Still, there is a fine line between Biblical command and practical advice.

  2. otrmin Says:

    Amir,

    It has always been hard for me to criticize Albert Mohler on this issue for many of the reasons you have mentioned. He has done so much good for the Christian faith, and I know he is trying to do good here.

    I have never met the guy in person, but I have talked to him briefly about this issue, and I do listen to his program regularly. I have seen that he is very intelligent, which is why it somewhat bothers me that all of this is going on.

    I was talking with one of the New Testament students here, and he told me everything you have said, but he also told me that one of Dr. Mohler’s weaknesses is in exegesis of the Biblical text. I have seen this too. You give Dr. Mohler Biblical truth, and he will be able to systemitize it, and understand its significance in an incredibly deep fashion. However, he has given some interpretations of Biblical texts that have just made me shake my head in disbelief that someone of his intelligence would say such an odd thing.

    I think that is why you are sorta torn when you deal with Dr. Mohler. You know he is intellegent enough to understand the exegesis of the Biblical text on an advanced level, but, at the same time, some of his interpretations of scripture really leave you wondering if you are dealing with the same man who was just speaking two minutes ago!

    I agree that a podcast such as that was neither the time nor the place to deal with that. As I said, I do not blame Boundless for anything that happened on this podcast. You expect when you put someone compitent like Dr. Mohler on a podcast that he will not say things like this.

    I do understand the need for people who want to get married to have help along the way. My concern here is for the text of scripture, and for its proper handling. I think there are ways we can go about getting people help in that regard, without confusing command with something that is good socio-economic advice.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  3. charles Says:

    Thank you, Adam, for your carefulness and meticulous study. Maybe I”ll have the blessing of sitting under your lectures and teaching someday.

  4. wombatty Says:

    Ted’s whining is just precious; you know what’s getting really boring and petty? The way the guys over at Boundless and your fellow travelers love hating on single guys who aren’t obssessed with marriage. What’s worse, is that they are apparently so consumed with their ‘marriage or bust’ mentality that they cannot see when scripture is being twisted in front of their eyes.

    • Ted Slater Says:

      Wombatty — is creationmeditations.wordpress.com your blog? It looks very promising. I appreciate your convictions and intentions for it.

    • Ted Slater Says:

      Yeah, I just clicked on your name. What I appreciate about it is your high esteem for the Scriptural account of creation and your high esteem for science, and your conviction that they both affirm God’s hand in bringing “all this” about.

      Focus on the Family does not take a stand on Young Earth Creationism vs. Old Earth Creationism; that said, I tend to be in your camp on this. Scripture seems pretty clear about it, and the scientific evidence doesn’t seem to discount a fairly literal interpretation of Genesis. That said, I do find myself intrigued by that “gap” implied between the first two verses of Genesis …

  5. otrmin Says:

    Charles,

    Thank you for your support.

    wombatty,

    Thank you for your support also. I am trying to be careful to not guess people’s motives, though. I assume, until proven wrong, that Albert Mohler, some of the authors over at Boundless [there are others at Boundless who do not get involved in this issue, or have different takes on this], et al., really *do* have good motivations. There are a large number of people who want to get married, and, if what Amir told me is correct, there is no help for them to achieve that goal, and, in fact, there are people working against them.

    However, as a side effect, the text of scripture is being misused. I think that Sam Waldron said it best when he said that we need to be careful to distinguish between something that is good advice, and something that is a command. It might be very good advice for some people to consider marrying young and having lots of children rather than going to graduate school. However, just because it is good advice, and just because we need people serving God in this way does not mean it is a Biblical commandment!

    God Bless,
    Adam

  6. wombatty Says:

    I’ve mentioned more than once over at Boudless that my default reaction to evangelical leaders who speak on marriage and singleness is one of suspicion and distrust. In my experience, the chances are better than not that the speaker will be full of crap. From Thune’s ‘If You’re Single, You’re Not Busy’ bilge, to Maken, Mohler and others, these people are just not credible on the issue. Boundless seems intent on joining their ranks. Candace Watter’s, despite your having corrected her on her views on Ruth persists in her error (correct me if I’m wrong) and now Slater is so thin-skinned that he mistakes simple scriptural analysis (i.e. telling the truth) for ‘hating’.

    This is the essence of ‘political correctness’: the truth is not welcome because it is uncomfortable and might hurt somebodies feelings. When devotion to a cause has this effect, something is very wrong.

    Sadly, these people are only hurting their credibility among those to whom it should matter most – young men.

  7. Dani Says:

    Thanks for some really interesting comments (after a very though provoking post). I’ve found it helpful thinking through how to respond to Dr Mohler on this issue (since I’ve found it hard to reconcile the great respect I have for him on so many counts… but also my strong disagreement with regards to some of his exegetical assumptions when it comes singleness and marriage)

    I’m currently preparing a talk on the topic of singleness which I will be giving to around 500 women at an evangelical women’s conference here in Australia in May. One of my main objectives is to actually examine (and deconstruct from Scripture) the assumptions and ‘myths’ that evangelicalism has adopted regarding the purpose and value of singleness for the Christian (eg. the “gift” = special spiritual endowment to life-long celibacy to only a few and so on).

    As I’ve been preparing that talk and been reading/listening to a lot of the stuff coming out particularly from Focus on the Family and Boundless (or more specifically individuals associated with those organisations) I find myself more and more confused. I’m hoping that some of you guys in the US could help me understand something?

    The common cry from these individuals seems to be that both culture AND the church are consistently devaluing the divinely instituted place and purpose of marriage. I totally agree with the notion that the non-Christian world around us is doing exactly that (and deliberately so). And I’m also totally for Christians teaching and admonishing one another to find their authority in the Word of God rather than being seduced by the world’s easy lies.

    However, much of what is being said and written by those individuals is aimed at rebuking those ‘inside’ the church rather than seeking to provide an apologetic on this matter in the face of persistent secular pressure.

    All I can think is that maybe this is genuine difference between US and Aussie evangelical culture… because I just don’t see our churches, our preachers, our teachers devaluing marriage AT ALL. Marriage is highly valued all round in our christian culture here. It is generally assumed that Christians will end up married (normally in their 20s) with kids (God-willing). That is just the assumed natural state for the Christian (though obviously not all of us end up there… regardless of whether we want to or not!) I personally think that if Australian evangelicalism faces any danger on this issue it is perhaps in consistently prioritizing marriage and the family over our spiritual membership within the one body (but I’ll leave that comment dangling for now!)

    So my question is this – is this a truly a cultural difference between our two countries? In other words, is there really a trend within US evangelicalism where marriage is being consistently devalued and sidelined? Are there really hordes of 20-something single men who are kicking back and enjoying an extended adolescence (a la Mark Driscoll)? Has US evangelicalism found itself (perhaps unwittingly) on board with the agenda of the non-Christian world when it comes to matters of sexuality and marriage?

    Or is this a case of a small but vocal crowd protesting too much?

    My questions are meant very sincerely. I really just don’t get it!

    • singleman Says:

      These are my observations and opinions; others may disagree.

      I don’t believe marriage is being devalued in American evangelical churches. If anything, American evangelical churches tend to be so family-centric that singles are devalued and treated as less than full members of the body of Christ.

      The average age of first marriage has grown older in recent years, and that trend has carried over from the culture into the church. There are a number of reasons for this. I can’t help but believe that today’s economic realities, which include an unemployment rate at its highest level since the early 1980’s, are among those reasons. Another reason is that most decent jobs these days require at least a bachelor’s degree, unless one has learned a trade. Pursuing higher education in the U.S. is time-consuming and increasingly expensive.

      For whatever reason, some (not all) evangelical leaders and authors have decided to place the blame for the delay in marriage within the church on single Christian men. They claim that 20-something Christian men aren’t pursuing marriage and family and are sharing in the cultural trend toward extended adolescence among men.

      I haven’t found extended adolescence to be an issue among the 20-something Christian men I’ve met in recent years. Most of them are trying to go about their Father’s business as best they can.

      To some extent, it is a case of a small but vocal crowd protesting too much, perhaps even using 20-something Christian men as a bogeyman to promote their cause. In reality, the reasons for delayed marriage are numerous and complex and will not be easily solved.

      There is a recognition that it’s become much more difficult for today’s single Christians who desire marriage to get there, whether they’re 20-something or a lot older. There is, however, substantial disagreement on how to reverse that trend.

      Dani, I hope this has been helpful in answering your questions.

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