The Pursuit of Marriage: Part 2, Mandate Proponents
One major contemporary proponent of the idea that the bible mandates marriage for those who are not gifted for singleness (as I described in part 1 of this series) is Dr Albert Mohler, the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and member of the Focus on the Family board of directors. Another proponent is Debbie Maken, author of Getting Serious About Getting Married. In this post I show how they present their views and note some differences.
Mohler has written and spoken about the issue in various forums, for instance on his website he has written:
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible assumes that marriage is normative for human beings….There is one significant qualification about marriage found in the Scriptures. In 1 Corinthians chapter seven, the Apostle Paul writes specifically about the gift of celibacy, offering a clear teaching for those who are given this special gift in order to be liberated for strategic Gospel service….[T]he Bible presents celibacy as a gift — apparently a rare gift — that is granted to some believers in order that they would be liberated for special service in Christ’s name. Paul’s discussion of celibacy indicates that this gift is marked by the absence of lust and sexual desire that would compromise or complicate ministry as an unmarried person. Accordingly, those who have been given the gift of celibacy find in Christ the satisfactions others are given through marriage.
That should be the normative expectation for a man to leave his mother and father and become husband to his wife….[T]here is no scriptural category of singleness. There is married and celibate….If you are an adult and you are not married and you are not called to celibacy, you need to get married.
In his article Reflecting on “The Mystery of Marriage” Mohler clarified his position:
Singleness is not a sin, but deliberate singleness on the part of those who know they have not been given the gift of celibacy is, at best, a neglect of a Christian responsibility. The problem may be simple sloth, personal immaturity, a fear of commitment, or an unbalanced priority given to work and profession. On the part of men, it may also take the shape of a refusal to grow up and take the lead in courtship. There are countless Christian women who are prayerfully waiting for Christian men to grow up and take the lead. What are these guys waiting for?
These quotes show how Mohler views that Gen 2:24 provides a marriage default and he interprets 1 Cor 7 in the light of that. He believes that adult singles should aim for marriage unless they are given the rare gift of not experiencing lust or sexual desire, in which case they should follow their calling to service in the kingdom.
In Getting Serious About Getting Married Debbie Maken takes a similar view:
The bible is clear: It’s God’s will for people to marry. (There are of course, exceptions to the rule, but we shall get to that in the next chapter.)…Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:8-25 reveal that God mandated marriage not just for his people, but for the entire world. Marriage remains God’s revealed will… Because God made us “male and female,” we were neither designed not intended to be completed only by God on this side of heaven; the full expression of marriage is found in marriage, not merely in relationships with other individuals.
After lots of bible study I found that the bible does not categorically authorize singleness. It does allow singleness for a limited few and establishes clear parameters by which they can legitmately be single (see Matthew 19:4-11 and 1 Corinthians 7). The converse then is also true: People who don’t meet the singleness requirements are under the general rule of marriage that God established in Genesis.
The third type of eunuchs [in Matt 19:12]… are individuals who have been called to do some kind of kingdom work that simply won’t accomodate a family…who use their entire lives to do a ministry that simply does not work with marriage….[T]hose who are legitimately single have the gift of chastity — a special enabling given by God to remove their otherwise natural sexual desires.
Maken approvingly quotes the Larger Catechism of the Westminster Confession calling “undue delay of marriage” a sin, referring to the phrases “wife of your youth” and “bridegroom of your youth” as biblical support and pointing to practical costs such as decreased fertility.
While Maken’s position is very similar to Mohler’s, she views 1 Cor 7 as only permitting postponement of marriage in times of distress such as famine and persecution and goes further than Mohler in explicitly saying that those who are gifted for singleness are called to do work that married people could not do. She also takes a stronger position against delay of marriage.