Archive for the ‘Marriage’ category

Modesty Survey Results

28 June, 2007 EUTC The Modesty Survey
Back on St Valentine’s day the folks at The Rebulution posted the results to their modesty survey, which they describe as ‘a resource to help Christian girls (and guys), not a list of legalistic rules… which encourage young women to focus on the heart, not the hemline, to honor their parents, etc.’. I didn’t find the presentation conducive to examining the results, so I have now made up a spreadsheet based on their data. Their website includes a lot of other resources on this topic.

I switched some of the questions around so that agreeing with the statements always represented a more conservative position (so in particular agreement with questions regarding clothing implies the clothing is immodest). If the reversed questions had been asked then the results would likely have been slightly different, but not by much. Then I ordered the percentage agreement (including agree and strongly agree) for each category of questions. The questions are not consistent in form, eg. they vary between asking whether something is a stumbling block, immodest etc., but hopefully this doesn’t make too much difference so that the percentages can still be seen as a consistent measure of the extent to which guys struggle with these various things. That said it clearly illustrates that guys vary in their attitudes/struggles with lust. So for example, 6.9% don’t agree that miniskirts as immodest while 9.1% find sparkly, shiny skirts a stumbling block, regardless of length.

Here are some more examples with the % who agree or agree strongly that these things are immodest/stumble-inducing etc. in parentheses: showing any cleavage (70.3), exposing the stomach when wearing a swimsuit (57.5), the lines of undergarments being visible under clothing (71.6), reaching into the shirt to adjust a bra strap (65.4), spaghetti-strap shirts and dresses (60.8), skirts that fall above the knee (58.4), the way a girl walks can be immodest (74.9).


Piper On Singleness In Christ

12 May, 2007 EUTC

John Piper has recently finished a sermon series called Marriage, Christ, and Covenant: One Flesh for the Glory of God that comprised 8 sermons on marriage and 1 sermon on a biblical theology of singleness, based on this. In the latter he says,

My main point is that God promises those of you who remain single in Christ blessings that are better than the blessings of marriage and children, and he calls you to display, by the Christ-exalting devotion of your singleness, the truths about Christ and his kingdom that shine more clearly through singleness than through marriage and childrearing. The truths, namely,

  1. That the family of God grows not by propagation through sexual intercourse, but by regeneration through faith in Christ;
  2. That relationships in Christ are more permanent, and more precious, than relationships in families (and, of course, it is wonderful when relationships in families are also relationships in Christ; but we know that is often not the case);
  3. That marriage is temporary, and finally gives way to the relationship to which it was pointing all along: Christ and the church—the way a picture is no longer needed when you see face to face;
  4. That faithfulness to Christ defines the value of life; all other relationships get their final significance from this. No family relationship is ultimate; relationship to Christ is.

To say the main point more briefly: God promises spectacular blessings to those of you who remain single in Christ, and he gives you an extraordinary calling for your life. To be single in Christ is, therefore, not a falling short of God’s best, but a path of Christ-exalting, covenant-keeping obedience that many are called to walk.

This sermon elicited the question “If what you say about the blessing of singleness is true, then why would one even want to be married?” with his response here. He explains that both marriage and singleness work out God’s design in different ways, and says of both “That is a high calling, but it is only compelling if it meets with internal longings for God that lean strongly into these designs.” He sets out God’s design for marriage as

  1. To display his covenant keeping love between Christ and the church,
  2. To sanctify the couple with the peculiar pains and pleasures of marriage,
  3. To beget and rear a generation of white-hot worshippers, and
  4. And to channel good sexual desire into holy paths and transpose it into worshipful foretastes of heaven’s pleasures.

While he similarly sets out God’s design for marriage as,

  1. To display the spiritual nature of God’s family that grows from regeneration and faith, not procreation and sex,
  2. To sanctify the single with the peculiar pains and pleasures of singleness,
  3. To capture more of the single’s life for non-domestic ministry that is so desperately needed in the world,
  4. And to magnify the all-satisfying worth of Christ that sustains life-long chastity.

While previously he interpreted 1 Cor7:7 to refer to singleness and marriage as gifts he now says

neither I nor the Bible means to say that either [marriage or singleness] is compelling in and of themselves. That is why Paul says, “One has one gift and one another” (1 Corinthians 7:7). I think he means: The internal reality of one person finds one of these powerfully compelling and the internal reality of another finds another powerfully compelling. And I would add: This can change from one season to another…Objectively, we cannot know ahead of time whether marriage or singleness will sanctify us more or honor God more. Does the internal reality of our heart lean us into the designs of marriage or the designs of singleness? That is a huge question and one that only the heart can answer. But it should be a heart well-formed with much Bible and much prayer and much maturity through life and counsel of friends and family.

I really like Piper’s balanced view of marriage and singleness. He promotes them both, focusing on their God glorifying nature, rather than taking a more man-centred approach of promoting singleness to make single people feel good or promoting marriage to reduce the suffering of unwanted singleness. I have some more thoughts, but they will need to wait for another post.

Sexual Temptation, Worldly Desire and Marital Status

2 March, 2007 EUTC

I have just discovered an interesting post that presents a good way of thinking about the choice of whether or not to pursue marriage from 1 Cor 7. The author Dan Miller argues that there are 2 principles to consider: “The principle of avoiding temptation to sexual immorality makes us conclude that we should marry” and “The principle of avoiding worldly anxieties makes us conclude that we should not marry”. Neither is absolute, neither is primary, we each choose for our particular situations which is the more compelling. The strength of the avoiding temptation principle depends on how much a person struggles with sexual temptation, while the strength of the worldly anxiety principle depends on a person’s gifts and opportunities. The latter may be expressed in terms of whether marriage would help or hinder ministry.

This idea of conflicting principles ensures that both principles are considered together. If the principle of avoiding sexual immorality were ignored then one might get the idea that because singleness has advantages that ought to be used for God’s glory by those who are single, singles therefore ought to prefer singleness and avoid marriage, irrespective of the level of sexual desire and suitability for long-term single ministry. Similarly if the principle of sexual purity were taken on its own, one might take the position that those who struggle at all must marry because serious sexual sin is inevitable, ignoring the possibility that the advantages of undivided devotion that singleness brings may be worth the loss of marriage as one major way of reducing the struggle. (more…)

Proverbs 31 Song

18 January, 2007 EUTC

For lyrics and video clips of a performance go here.

The Pursuit of Marriage: Part 5, Choice Justified

7 September, 2006 EUTC

Gen 1,2; 1 Cor 7, Matt 19:3-12 are largely consistent with 1 Cor 7:7 being about a gift of celibacy, and also with it being about a gift of singleness. I am not aware of any biblical exegesis much beyond people citing verses that could be interpreted either way and asserting their interpretation, except for a couple of papers written by a friend. In this post I aim to justify my position that there is no gift of celibacy that determines whether a person should marry or not so that people are free to choose based on other considerations.

Paul does not set out the details of the gift of celibacy. In v7 he does not say what the gift is, and it is in speaking to the first group of people he addresses (unmarried and the widows) that he mentions burn with passion and not marrying, but with no connection made to the gift. He does not mention the gift when discussing whether members of the various groups should/could marry (I find the reference some see in v37 having his desire under control – ESV, to be unpersuasive given context and the word translated desire). Not only does this mean that there is an absence of support for the claim that Paul is teaching about the gift of celibacy, but it is also strange given the supposed importance of the gift. There is no reference to contentedness being part of the gift either, though some claim it is. (more…)

The Pursuit of Marriage: Part 4, Gift of Singleness Quotes

5 September, 2006 EUTC

My previous post in this series described the views of those who oppose the marriage mandate and gift of celibacy view. These people tend to subscribe to the view that 1 Cor 7:7 describes singleness and marriage as being gifts. Here I want to offer some quotes from these people as a complement to that post.

The Gift Is Singleness

In his book Singles at the Crossroads (UK title: The Single issue) Al Hsu says,

[T]he gift is a description of an objective status. If you are single then you have the gift of singleness. If you are married, you don’t.

In Singles at the Crossroads John Stott quotes 1 Corinthians 7:7 and calls singleness and marriage gifts, then when asked whether the gift of singleness is a gift in the sense that we are given a supernatural power to cope with it he replies,

Not really. The gift of singleness is more a vocation than an empowerment, although to be sure God is faithful in supporting those he calls (1 Thess 5:24).


The Pursuit of Marriage: Part 3, Gift of Singleness

2 September, 2006 EUTC

In my first of 2 previous posts in this series I presented the marriage mandate view, which is that marriage is mandated for all who are not enabled for singleness by the gift of celibacy, though there are various views on what that enablement involves. Then in the second post I described the views of 2 proponents of this view, Al Mohler and Debbie Maken. Here I want to summarise the competing views.

The Gift of Singleness

The marriage mandate and the gift of celibacy are closely tied together, and so while those who do not accept the marriage mandate may simply not mention it, if they are addressing the issue of singleness they will very likely turn to 1 Cor 7 and the gift of v7. As people who do not accept the marriage mandate view, they will necessarily hold a different interpretation of the gift to the gift of celibacy interpretation.

The main alternative view of the gift is that it is being single, which I will call the ‘gift of singleness’, as opposed to the ‘gift of celibacy’ described already. This interpretation is used to make the application that those who desire marriage should still view their singleness as a good gift from God to be used for his service, while also recognising marriage as another good gift, that God may later give.