Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

The meaning of marriage: a lecture at Google by Tim Keller

Disclaimer: I have reservations about Tim Keller. I consider him to be too liberal for my tastes, especially on scientific (intelligent design) and political/economic issues. However, I think he did a good job explaining marriage in the lecture below.

Here’s the the video:

Details:

Timothy Keller visits Google’s New York, NY office to discuss his book “The Meaning of Marriage.” This event took place on November 14, 2011, as part of the Authors@Google series.

Timothy J. Keller is an American author, speaker, preacher, and the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He is the author of several books, including “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism.”

“The Meaning of Marriage” touches on topics that all readers can relate to, starting with the role of marriage in our culture, its history and the pessimism that is often associated with it. The Kellers also discuss the feelings of and acts of love, romantic relationships, gender roles, singleness, and the role of sex in a marriage.

I saw a lot of things in his lecture that echo my own views. One point where we agree is on not just looking for traits and virtues in the other person, but in seeing how they handle conflict and solve problems with you.  You have to give the other person things to do and see if they make progress and work cooperatively with you. Wes, who linked me the lecture, introduced the link by saying that this is the way that Christians should explain marriage to non-Christians. I agree, and I’ve added the book to my cart.

Here’s an article entitled “You Never Marry the Right Person“, that discusses one of the points in the lecture.

Excerpt:

In generations past, there was far less talk about “compatibility” and finding the ideal soul-mate. Today we are looking for someone who accepts us as we are and fulfills our desires, and this creates an unrealistic set of expectations that frustrates both the searchers and the searched for.

[…]The Bible explains why the quest for compatibility seems to be so impossible. As a pastor I have spoken to thousands of couples, some working on marriage-seeking, some working on marriage-sustaining and some working on marriage-saving. I’ve heard them say over and over, “Love shouldn’t be this hard, it should come naturally.” In response I always say something like: “Why believe that? Would someone who wants to play professional baseball say, ‘It shouldn’t be so hard to hit a fastball’? Would someone who wants to write the greatest American novel of her generation say, ‘It shouldn’t be hard to create believable characters and compelling narrative’?” The understandable retort is: “But this is not baseball or literature. This is love. Love should just come naturally if two people are compatible, if they are truly soul-mates. “

The Christian answer to this is that no two people are compatible. Duke University Ethics professor Stanley Hauerwas has famously made this point:

Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become “whole” and happy. The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. This moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person.We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.

Hauerwas gives us the first reason that no two people are compatible for marriage, namely, that marriage profoundly changes us. But there is another reason. Any two people who enter into marriage are spiritually broken by sin, which among other things means to be self-centered—living lifeincurvatus in se. As author Denis de Rougemont said, “Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love … ?” That is why a good marriage is more painfully hard to achieve than athletic or artistic prowess. Raw, natural talent does not enable you to play baseball as a pro or write great literature without enduring discipline and enormous work. Why would it be easy to live lovingly and well with another human being in light of what is profoundly wrong within our human nature? Indeed, many people who have mastered athletics and art have failed miserably at marriage. So the biblical doctrine of sin explains why marriage—more than anything else that is good and important in this fallen world—is so painful and hard.

When you are courting, don’t worry about appearances and feelings and passion so much, because that is all subject to change over time, and those things won’t help you with the real challenges you’ll face in a marriage. Worry about whether they are the kind of person who can make commitments and love other people self-sacrificially – even if they are unlovable. In the long run, their ability to read and understand issues, to care for others and serve them, to keep promises, to be respectful and supportive, to argue respectfully and reasonably, and to solve problems constructively, will all be far more important than appearances and feelings and passion.

And let me be clear again: give them things to do that challenge them during the courtship and see how they handle being given responsibilities – giving a person hard things to do is a much better way to test a person than recreational nights out with recreational drinking, recreational dancing and recreational sex. Marriage means commitment and hard work, not recreation. And that’s what you should test for – the ability to work hard at the relationship and to keep promises and commitments and to communicate reasonably and to work through difficulties fairly. The most dangerous thing you want to avoid is self-centeredness. You don’t want someone who is primarily interested in minimizing your feelings, and then getting her friends to agree with her that this is legitimate for whatever reasons. You want a person who has had a hard enough life that responsibilities and obligations are natural to her, and who doesn’t try to wiggle out of self-sacrificial acts of love when she doesn’t feel like doing it.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Do Christians have a higher divorce rate than atheists?

I’m traveling today, so I thought I would re-post this USA Today article from 2011 about that.

Excerpt:

It’s been proclaimed from pulpits and blogs for years — Christians divorce as much as everyone else in America.

But some scholars and family activists are questioning the oft-cited statistics, saying Christians who attend church regularly are more likely to remain wed.

“It’s a useful myth,” said Bradley Wright, a University of Connecticut sociologist who recently wrote “Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites … and Other Lies You’ve Been Told.”

“Because if a pastor wants to preach about how Christians should take their marriages more seriously, he or she can trot out this statistic to get them to listen to him or her.”

The various findings on religion and divorce hinge on what kind of Christians are being discussed.

Wright combed through the General Social Survey, a vast demographic study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and found that Christians, like adherents of other religions, have a divorce rate of about 42%. The rate among religiously unaffiliated Americans is 50%.

When Wright examined the statistics on evangelicals, he found worship attendance has a big influence on the numbers. Six in 10 evangelicals who never attend had been divorced or separated, compared to just 38% of weekly attendees.

[…]Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, agrees there’s been some confusion.

“You do hear, both in Christian and non-Christian circles, that Christians are no different from anyone else when it comes to divorce and that is not true if you are focusing on Christians who are regular church attendees,” he said.

Wilcox’s analysis of the National Survey of Families and Households has found that Americans who attend religious services several times a month were about 35% less likely to divorce than those with no religious affiliation.

Nominal conservative Protestants, on the other hand, were 20% more likely to divorce than the religiously unaffiliated.

“There’s something about being a nominal ‘Christian’ that is linked to a lot of negative outcomes when it comes to family life,” Wilcox said.

Here’s a quote from an Oklahoma State University study that confirms the Wright and Wilcox conclusions:

History of Divorce and Religious Involvement

Those who say they are more religious are less likely, not more, to have already experienced divorce. Likewise, those who report more frequent attendance at religious services were significantly less likely to have been divorced. This pattern of findings held using various analytic techniques that test which variables differentiate persons who have been divorced from persons who have not been divorced, while controlling for other variables that might affect the interpretation of the data, such as age, age of first marriage, income, and gender. When both the global rating of religiousness and the item assessing frequency of attendance at religious services are entered into the same analysis, the attendance item remains significantly associated with divorce history but the global religiousness item does not. This suggests that a key aspect of how religious faith affects marital relationships may be through involvement with a community of faith.

So, please do bookmark this information for the next time you hear an atheist make this argument. Obviously, you can’t expect people who are not serious about their religion to be bound by the moral duties imposed by that religion. People who attend church regularly are probably more serious about their religion, and also probably more informed about what their holy book says. If their holy book is the Bible, then there are few options for divorce.

An article from Focus on the Family by Amy Tracy explains when divorce is allowed according to the Bible.

God is very clear, however, that He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). He also says, “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6). According to the New Testament, there are two justifications for divorce: infidelity (Matthew 5:32) and desertion (1 Corinthians 7:15).

So divorce is not something a Bible believing Christian can do for frivolous reasons, unless he wants to be in rebellion against God.

The future of marriage in the church

In my own case, I learned about chastity and sobriety and courting outside the church, and in my case that means that I am still a virgin, that I don’t drink more than a beer a year, and that when I like a girl, I court her. I do think that people in the church are generally more moral than people outside the church, but that’s more because of convention rather than conviction. I don’t think it’s going to last, in other words – it’s more like a hangover. Church is not the place where reasons and evidence are given that help people to resist peer pressure when they enter hostile environments, like the university. And often, parents are too busy working to understand the issues and communicate them to their children.

I’ve never been in a church where they explained the hormones that are released during sex that cause you to bond to the person you’re having sex with. You would have to look in books or listen to lectures in order to understand the problem with having sex with someone you are not committed to – how it causes you to hold back your emotions for fear of a break-up. The church doesn’t have much to say about the social effects of single motherhood by choice or the effects of gay parenting on children. Nor do they have any positive vision to offer men about how they can serve God by marrying carefully.

Christians who participate in a church community will adopt some of these values, especially if they stay clear of popular culture, the university, etc. Especially if they don’t work in a very secular environment, like a high-tech company or in Hollywood. But unless Christian communities get serious about grounding their values in evidence, I wouldn’t expect this situation to go on, and you can already see young people falling away from church in record numbers when they get to university as a result of this refusal to engage. We’re doing well now, but we should move to secure our gains.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , ,

Jennifer Roback Morse lectures on sex and sexuality at Harvard University

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Dr. Morse delivers a talk based on her book “Smart Sex” at Harvard University.

The MP3 file is here. (21 Mb)

Topics:

  • the hook-up culture and its effects on men and women
  • cohabitation and its effect on marriage stability
  • balancing marriage, family and career
  • single motherhood by choice and IVF
  • donor-conceived children
  • modern sex: a sterile, recreation activity
  • the real purposes of sex: procreation and spousal unity
  • the hormone oxytocin: when it is secreted and what it does
  • the hormone vassopressin: when it is secreted and what it does
  • the sexual revolution and the commoditization of sex
  • the consumer view of sex vs the organic view of sex
  • fatherlessness and multi-partner fertility
  • how the “sex-without-relationship” view harms children

52 minutes of lecture, 33 minutes of Q&A from the Harvard students. The Q&A is worth listening to – the first question is from a gay student, and Dr. Morse pulls a William Lane Craig to defeat her objection. It was awesome! I never get tired of listening to her talk, and especially on the topics of marriage and family.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What’s stopping young adults from getting married?

Before we get to the study, I wanted to share something that a Christian male friend shared with me about yesterday’s post on the crazy feminist mommy porn author.

He writes:

I saw your post about the woman who “fell in love” with her fantasy character she created. I’m a victim of this.

My ex-wife is a succeeding indie author. She jets off and hangs with NYT best-selling authors, rubs elbows with a lot of fantasy romance and erotica authors. She reads, oh, roughly 200 +/- smut books per year.

This area is the flip side of the porn coin, and it’s not getting the attention it should. If I told my story and part of the reason for the marriage destruction, it would be an “easy sell” to those who understand that women who fantasize about these fictional characters (even the images on the covers) are doing the exact thing men are doing when they fantasize over airbrushed skin images and other skin porn.

Many will argue it’s not the same thing, but that is preposterous. Husbands are competing with fantasy novel cover art and fantasy characters. It’s every bit the same as wives competing with unreal images or even real ones where they compete with younger, more fit, kinkier, etc., etc.

Men get cheated on all the time. Through this stuff. My ex developed an online romance through it all. Exchanged erotic pictures, emails, texts, Skype, on and on and on.

I discovered travel plans, fake email accounts, it was awful.

This is the third time that I have been sent divorce stories like this by conservative, Christian male apologists on Facebook.

The first time, the wife hit a certain age then just went nuts and started working out a ton and trying to look younger and younger. Then as she got success as a personal trainer and attention for all the photos she posted, she just divorced her husband outright to focus on her business and more glamorous photos. And they had children. The second time, the wife just went nuts into new age beliefs and yoga and divorced her husband, and they had children too. So we are talking real destructive craziness here.

This is why I put so much emphasis on building up a woman first by leading her to learn apologetics, conservative politics and economics, and so on. If she is not willing to learn and grow in things that are good for her and that help her to be a better wife and mother, then you know that her heart is not in the difficult realities of married life and the roles of wife and mother. She will be one of these women who wants to be happy and thinks that happiness means getting rid of family obligations and responsibilities to her man and her kids. Men should ensure that their prospective mates reject the Disney princess perception that relationships should be all about them and their needs – living happily ever after with no hard work or effort. Helping a woman to think logically and argue using evidence is one way to insulate her from the foolish, emotion-driven culture that threatens marriage.

Anyway, with that said, here is the new article from Family Studies.

Here’s the introduction:

In interviews we conducted with working-class young adults, my wife and I were surprised by the strength of their desires to have a long-lasting marriage and stable family life. But many of them were far from realizing those aspirations. Why?  The wide-ranging challenges that frustrate their aspirations, which we must understand in order to find effective solutions, fall into four rough categories: family-of-origin, philosophical, psychological, and financial.

[…]Conflicted about marriage. This crisis of trust, in turn, informs young adults’ conflicted thinking about marriage. As Amber and I described in a previous post, their experiences of family fragmentation sharpen their desire to get and stay married, on the one hand, but on the other hand it also shakes their confidence in the durability of marriage. As a result, many young adults find themselves in tenuous cohabiting relationships, wanting to say “I do” eventually but too uncertain to do so now.

[…]The fixed love mindset. As Amber discussed here, the philosophy of love that young adults inherit from cultural scripts, like Hollywood chick flicks, works against their own aspirations for committed, permanent love. Instead of a “growth mindset” about love that focuses on working through possible differences, these stories about love transmit a “fixed mindset” that focuses on immediate and perpetual compatibility—the absence of which probably indicates that a couple is no longer meant for each other. Young adults with a fixed mindset about love tend to say things like “love is effortless,” or, as one separated spouse put it, “I love him, but I’m not in love with him. I love him as a friend, as the father, but I don’t feel that connection as I used to.”

[…]Extreme individualism. Despite the common challenges that confront working-class young adults, the idea that “my relationship is no one else’s business” prevents them from thinking about marriage and family life as a public issue that demands our common efforts.

For instance, Anthony knows first-hand the painful effects of divorce—his parents divorced when he was ten—and he speaks eloquently about how divorce imposed burdens on him and his other friends from divorced families. So what does he believe we can do about the rising number of children raised in fragmented families?

“I don’t think there’s a thing we can do about it,” Anthony told us. “And that’s kind of the American way—this is a free country, and free this and free that. But it’s your life, and not too many people care about other people’s lives. As long as it’s not theirs, they don’t care.” The result of that attitude, however, is loneliness and helplessness in the face of an urgent social problem.

One of the questions I sometimes discuss with my male friends is “what is the female equivalent of pornography”? It has to be something that teaches women to have unrealistic expectations of men. My answer is that it is this culture that praises irrationality, thrill-seeking, travel and emotionalism over planning, morality and hard work.  Many women today seem to really believe that men are there to provide them with fun, thrills and dreams, instead of with long-term achievements that take planning, sacrifice, problem-solving and hard work. The mommy-porn novels that so many women find attractive just feeds these marriage-destroying delusions. There is even a Christian version of the emotional craziness where women are urged to follow their hearts, and somehow, God will make their bad choices and risky plans work out.

As the story above from my friend shows, mommy porn is also an affair-creator and a marriage-killer. About 70% of divorces are initiated by women, and lesbian couples have the highest rates of relationship breakdown. Feministy women need to be taught (hopefully by their fathers) that entering into a relationship means an opportunity to commit to serve the other person self-sacrificially in order to build something that lasts – it’s not about getting your own way and feeling good. Many women today seem to enjoy choosing the wrong men in their teens and 20s, and then when the right man comes along later, they want to back away from the demands of a serious relationship with him and go on their merry way.

This is why I tell everyone to stay away from premarital sex and cohabitation – it has a huge impact on a person’s willingness to commit. Many women today seem to think that they can choose any man based on superficial criteria (he is fun and handsome and funny) and then make him commit by giving him sex. WRONG. You have to choose the right man by carefully evaluating him for marriage-related responsibilities. A man who can do husband tasks, (e.g. – providing, loving over the long-term, teaching others to defend their faith), is a man who is capable of marriage commitment. The experience of investing in the wrong men and then failing ruins a woman’s ability to trust and commit. They mentally and emotionally check out of subsequent relationships and start looking for excuses to get away from commitment. It creates an attitude of wanting to sabotage the relationship. They focus on scanning for the exits instead of on investing, communicating and problem solving.

UPDATE: The friend who wrote me had this in response to the post:

I carried her physically after her surgery, disciplined her children effectively, managed academics (got one through high school who wouldn’t have made it without me), was at her side for weeks praying for her son who nearly died in an accident, supported her in her accounting career and her writing, served all of her physical needs (yeah, THAT way!), sacrificed rural life and property for the castle she wanted . . .

You get the idea. None of it mattered. What mattered in the end was her chasing a dream.

I’m left with the castle I don’t want or need, and kids I love have been spirited off to a new life.

Sad.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Southern Baptist conference hosts Roman Catholic scholar to speak on the defense of marriage

Roman Catholic marriage defender Sherif Giris speaks to about 1500 Southern Baptists at the 2014 ERLC National Conference on “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage.” This is a very good introduction to the defense of marriage.

Topics:

  • his experience doing formal debates on the definition of marriage in the most liberal universities
  • the gay marriage side has no argument for redefining marriage it’s all emotions
  • on their view, what makes a marriage is a strong emotional bond
  • however their view does not rationally ground any of traditional marriage norms
  • it does not rationally ground the norm of marriage being permanent
  • it does not rationally ground the norm of marriage being sexually exclusive
  • it does not rationally ground the norm of marriage being for only two people
  • it does not rationally ground the norm of marriage involving sexual activity
  • it does not rationally ground the norm of marriage involving a connection to family life
  • if we redefine marriage to mean “emotional bond” all these features are not essential
  • the community of marriage involves cooperation: common actions towards a common end in a context of commitment
  • marriage unites two people at all levels
  • it unites them sexually for purpose: not for feelings, but for reproduction
  • the sexual act in marriage is oriented to generating family life, which requires commitment
  • family life leads naturally into the norms of permanence and exclusivity
  • the redefined view of marriage as emotional bonding is opposed to all of this
  • we can see the priorities of the redefiners in their support for no-fault divorce
  • they we acting on their view of making marriage about emotional fulfillment
  • they pushed by saying “how would no-fault divorce affect your marriage?”
  • no-fault divorce was the first marriage redefinition and it undermined permanence
  • it affected the entire community – a generation of kids raised without father
  • it causes a host of problems to kids, crime, lower test scores, earlier sexual activity, etc.
  • this is why marriage matters – to give children what they need
  • defending marriage as part of the Christian life
  • we have to understand the motives of the marriage redefiners and addressing their needs

I think it’s a good point to bring up no-fault divorce to show us how people on the secular left who want a more adult-friendly definition of marriage do their redefining at the expense of children. If this life is the only one you have, and there is no design for how humans ought to be, then it makes a lot of sense to maximize your own freedom and view your children as competitors against your happiness. Or, maybe you lie to yourself and say that fatherlessness and instability doesn’t really hurt children, because “children are resilient”.

The capacity for humans to deceive themselves when it comes to having freedom to “be happy” knows no bounds. It falls to us as Christians, then, to speak out for children – born and unborn. We are the only ones who still believe that in a conflict between adult selfishness and a child’s rights, that the child’s rights should win out. Children are not commodities, and there are more important things than our own happiness to consider. There are more important things than appearing “nice” to our peers to consider.

Filed under: Videos, , , , ,

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