With One Voice

Singleness, Dating, and Marriage to the Glory of God

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Summary of With One Voice

The ritual of courtship in America has depreciated to the degree that the path to marriage, once enriched by established cultural patterns, gender role expectations, and a sense of the normalcy of marriage, has become a bewildering maze. A century ago, young people looked forward to marriage and child rearing as both marks of adulthood and economic necessities. Today, the fruits of the sexual revolution, feminism, careerism, a growing youth culture, and a modern economy that values individuals over families have all contributed to the divorce of sexual expression from long-term commitment. Though not all of the social forces of the last century are intrinsically sinful, we must soberly admit that, to many, marriage is no longer an economic, social, or sexual necessity. Instead, it is at best just one more option for individual self-fulfillment and at worst a distraction from education, career, and sexual exploration. Such views have resulted in the increasing acceptance of a rise in the age of marriage, the debasement of women, the normalcy of divorce, and the general immaturity of young adults, particularly men. Against this backdrop, our youth and singles must recover a sense that marriage and childrearing (with their many associated joys and responsibilities) are not only precious milestones that provide direction and stability in life, but are biblical norms that mark the successful transition to adulthood.

In light of the world’s frightening trend toward a disconnection of commitment and intimacy, many western Christians have assumed that if the “good old days” could be resurrected, modern troubles such as promiscuity and detachment might go away. Though well-intentioned and sometimes producing good results, this approach can discourage Christians who lack a biblical family model in their own upbringing, and may therefore feel sentenced to a second-class marriage. Alternatively, it can (ironically) promote the delay of marriage by causing young people or their parents to set unattainable ideals for a spouse. Rather, we need to freshly communicate and impart timeless biblical principles in our rapidly changing world—transforming our culture, rather than being conformed to it. Such principles include a respect for mature biblical masculinity and femininity. Young men need to cultivate a sense of leadership, the assumption of responsibility, personal maturity sufficient to lead a wife and family, and a willingness to expend their God-given strength for the good of others. Young women should develop emotional security in Christ, relational wisdom, a discerning yet nurturing disposition, and modesty. These characteristics are in short supply in our day, given contemporary culture’s promotion of passivity, the prolonging of adolescence, and an emphasis on finding worth through good looks and popularity.

In a romantic context, young adults should embrace the Scriptural norm of marriage and its associated God-assigned responsibilities. Such interactions will display godly restraint, communication, wisdom, joy, and, in the proper time, decisiveness. In seeking to practice such premarital relationships, young people ought to emphasize their own spiritual, emotional, educational, and financial development toward adulthood, as well as cultivate an ability to recognize and affirm mature masculinity and femininity in potential partners. In the process of choosing a spouse, young adults should avoid the extremes of exclusively considering either objective criteria (how long she’s been a Christian, the quality of his family) or subjective criteria (physical attraction, enjoyment of his companionship). Friendships should blossom in community and family settings to the degree possible and progress with caution as interactions and conversations become more substantive. When proper, a man ought to declare his intentions without excessive delay and tenderly lead a particular woman into a committed relationship that is marriage-directed. She ought to honor his masculinity and her own femininity in the process by responding to and affirming his leadership, without either undue caution or prematurely surrendering her heart. Ultimately, With One Voice challenges both men and women to both become and to recognize a godly life partner, glorifying God and honoring others in the process. It is also a resource for parents and pastors seeking to raise a generation who will value the favor of God more than life itself, and who will love their husbands and wives out of the overflow of their love for God.

3 Comments:

  • At 9:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow! It sounds like we're on the precipice of exciting times for Christian singles!!!

    For years, I have felt like a lone voice crying out in the wilderness, or like the only passenger on the Titanic who can't help but notice that the ship is sinking and there's not enough lifeboats! But it sounds as if your book, along with Debbie Maken's Getting Serious about Getting Married: Rethinking the Gift of Singleness are both addressing something I have long thought, but never felt strong enough to say publicly: THAT THERE IS AN EPIDEMIC OF PROTRACTED SINGLENESS IN THE CHURCH THAT IS BEING CAUSED NOT ONLY BY THE TEMPTATIONS OF THE WORLD, BUT BY THE VERY TEACHINGS OF THE CHURCH ITSELF.

    There is a history to these problematic teachings that begins in the early 70's when modern translations of the Bible (The Living Bible, and then The Message in the 90's) start appearing with the text of 1 Corinthians 7:7 erroneously claiming that singleness is a gift (perhaps to mitigate problematic Catholic teachings that this passage is about "the gift of celibacy"). But the original Greek reads something to the effect of "for I would have it that all men be even as I am. But God gives unto each his own particular (idio- as in idiosyncratic) gift (charisma- "grace gift"), some in after this manner and some after that (a kind of figure of speech like "this way or that way"). In no way was Paul suggesting that "this" is singleness and "that" is marriage (or vice versa). Marital status was never considered "charisma", nor it is idiosyncratic, since most people marry and the others stay single (either/or). Some have maintained (including Debbie Maken) that Paul was referring to some "gift of celibacy" in terms of the removal of sexual desire) but there isn't even much biblical support for that, and evidence that this notion is harmful (ie. abuse scandals). It is more likely that Paul was expressing a personal opinion (I wish every one were like me: not married), but making the aside that God gifts us idiosyncratically, in whatever mysterious way that might be.

    Biblical commentator Gordon Fee has expressed the concern that misinterpretations of this passage have caused a lot of pain and anxiety to those who fear that God might not want them to marry. No wonder, given the way that "the gift of singleness" has become a catch phrase in the past few decades, particularly since the "born again fever of the mid 70s another catchphrase became vogue "God has a wonderful plan for your life". Around this time, church leaders started counselling singles to wait for "word from the Lord", assuming that they would have some kind of prophetic message about if or who to marry.

    We must now acknowledge that this trendy notion was an artifact of the times and has not materialized in the multitudes of "divine matches", as expected. Christians of the past never had to stand by to hear God's assignment for them about singleness or marriage. They knew that 1Cor7:7 was written "because of the present distress" (verse 26), and that scripture almost always spoke of marriage in terms of God's divine order or at the very least, human volition, (i.e. a man "finds a wife" in Proverbs 18:22, or "takes a wife" in 1 Corinthians 9:5) and that if they didn't take appropriate action towards getting married, they wouldn't.

    As a result of misinterpretations of 1Cor7:7 from the late 70's until very recently, there have been a whole host of toxic teachings that suggest that one receives marriage or singleness as a divine gift or calling, and that pursuing marriage may be sinful. For Example, in "Choosing God's Best" singles are told that before they look for a spouse, they need to first find out if God has given them "the gift of singleness" and "doesn't want you to marry, ever", (see his article on the marriagemissions.com website) even though no one in the bible ever prayed a prayer like that!

    There are currently over 12000 websites lauding "the gift of singleness" despite the fact that most Christian singles today are women who cannot find spouses due to the shortage of men in our churches. Calling their singleness a gift has become a convenient way of avoiding this issue, rather than looking at the human-made, sin based causes of it. As much as God is sovereign, he does not will sin to happen! But as Christians, we must admit to ourselves it's not just the fleshly lurings of the secular world drawing our men away, it's also the fact that these horrible teachings have immobilized earnest young believers, most of whom desperately want to get married.

    I'm not suggesting that singleness is a curse or insufferable, nor am I denying that God can use us or gift us with strength to deal with it. What I'm saying is that to call unwanted singleness "a gift" is presumptious, not to mention a slap in the face. However well-intentioned, those who alter biblical passages and sow seeds of doubt in the hearts of young believers do a terrible thing. This isn't just a matter of tweaking a few misconceptions here, and making some minor adjustments there. We've got some major damage on our hands, and we must start with getting to the roots of this problem: distortion of biblical texts and their resultant rogue doctrines about marriage and singleness.

    Thank you, Alex and Marnie for working to restore what has been broken.

    gortexgrrl

     
  • At 8:27 AM, Blogger Alex Chediak said…

    Thanks gortexgrrl,

    We appreciate this thoughful comment.

    Tim Challies did a great review of Debbie Maken's book. There are some similarities, though I have yet to review her comments on I Cor 7 itself. She and I would agree that, however one takes the "for the present time", it does not justify protracted singleness on the part of many adults, as we are seeing today.

    Al Mohler had a helpful post on 4/17 on the decay of marriage in Europe.

    Blessings,
    Alex

     
  • At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow, I especially agree with your identification of the phenomenon of a serious lack of young men in churches today as I see many many many Christian friends single, and with no concept of manhood it would seem. Where have we gone wrong? Even for myself, I find leadership elusive sometimes. Gender roles have become so skewed these days that both men and women have been degraded. I can look at the "singles" group at my church and see 20 and 30 somethings still split up, with men on one side and women on the other...what's worse is that the women's side has about 20 and the men's about 5. How are these Godly women going to get married if our men are out wasting their time? How can we bring them back? I'm buying your book! Sounds like we share similar frustrations with the world!

    Josh Pritchard

    yeah the one you babysat once

     

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