Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Are Christians responsible for making plans and making good decisions?

Here’s a wonderful post on decision making and the will of God posted on Neil’s blog. Neil links to another post where someone is trying to figure out what God wants him to do.

Excerpt:

Really short version: Aside from direct and clear personal revelation from God, you don’t have access to his sovereign will when making decisions.  Therefore you must look at other factors.  If it isn’t moral, don’t do it.  If it is moral but not wise, don’t do it.  If it is moral and wise, then use your personal preferences.

Using this model you can end up with a wise and biblical decision, but you have avoided the traps of the “God told me to ____” routine.  People who run around saying that God told them this and that convey a super-spirituality that can leave less mature believers wondering if they really have a relationship with God (i.e., “God doesn’t tell me every little thing to do, so maybe I don’t really know him.”).

He has a helpful picture posted as well:

This is actually a very important topic for me, because I like making plans and making good decisions. I like being the quarterback or squad leader of my own life. I like to pick objectives and then make plans to achieve them. (Nothing too exotic, just simple stuff like saving money or reading more books)

Actually, I really oppose the idea that God has a magical fairy tale will for each person that will make them happy and fulfilled. For me, life isn’t like that. I don’t expect God to lead me along like a child at a scavenger hunt. I expect to survey the battlefield where I am and then do something to make a difference. There are lots of things you can do that will please God. Should you focus on your career and sponsor apologetics conferences? Or should you use your spare time preparing Sunday school lessons? There are lots of good things you could do to please God. Your job is to pick the one that will be the most effective. It doesn’t matter if it makes you happy, it only matters if it’s effective and if you are good at it.

Who is Rifleman Dodd?

A while back, I was busily working my way through the U.S. Marine Corps Official Reading List, and I came across a book by C.S. Forester called Rifleman Dodd, or alternatively titled Death to the French. It’s a work of historical fiction that takes place during the Napoleonic wars. The story is about a British marksman named Dodd, who is cut off from his own lines during a withdrawal maneuver. He is subsequently left to fend for himself behind enemy lines. An ordinary man might be full of despair and forget about his mission entirely. But Dodd is no ordinary man. Not only does he find a way to survive by finding food to eat, water to drink and places to sleep, but he also tries to remember his orders and to think about what he can do to advance the cause of his General, the Duke of Wellington.

Here’s an excerpt from a gritty book review:

It’s about a green-coated British infantry rifleman in the Napoleonic Wars, an age when rifles were a novelty and most of the army was red-coated and carried muskets. Private Matthew Dodd gets separated from his regiment during a retreat and finds himself stranded behind enemy (French) lines in Portugal. With the occasional aid of some natives, but mostly on his own, he harasses the French with his rifle and tries to prevent them from building a bridge across the Tagus River. It’s a remarkable tale of survival and solitary achievement, of a rank-and-file soldier who lives by his wits and slowly learns to make plans without orders, and shows leadership qualities and a knowledge of warfare.

I think we’re in the same situation as Dodd.

There is no point in us looking for breadcrumb trails to happiness at this point. That’s not the point of Christianity. The point of Christianity is friendship with God, imitation of Christ, honoring moral obligations, self-sacrificial love for your neighbor (and even your enemies!), and dedication to the truth – whether anyone else likes you or not. It’s not supposed to make you happy, and it’s not necessarily going to be a normal life like everyone else has. Things may not work out the way you’d like them to.

We seem to be making such a big deal about compassion and forgiveness in the Christian life these days – such a big emphasis on our feelings. Almost like we have forgotten that we have obligations to our friend – and his objectives. A relationship doesn’t mean that one person completely disregards the character and goals of the other person and then is automatically granted forgiveness whenever they want it. That’s not a friendship – that’s using someone else for your own ends. Maybe it’s time to remember what this is all about.

Filed under: Mentoring, , , , , ,

Should you marry someone who promises you that “there will be no divorce”?

I was having a chat with a friend of mine who just got out of a serious relationship and I was trying to pick his brain to find out everything about the woman he was intending to marry so I could see why things went wrong. He told me that she had told him over and over that “there would be no divorce” and that he found that very convincing, despite very obvious warning signs in the area of respect (which I wrote about yesterday).

Well. I was very surprised to hear this, and so I asked him whether he thought it was enough that this woman told him that “three will be no divorce”. He said yes. This woman had experienced the divorce of her own parents and she was resolved (by act of will) never to let that happen to her. He found that acceptable, but I didn’t because I know the numbers on this, and I know that children of divorced parents are more likely to divorce themselves. So the pain of divorce is no deterrent here.

So should we believe that people can avoid a divorce just by saying they will? I told him no. And for an example, I offered a thought experiment. I said to imagine two runners on a track who are charged with completing 10 laps. One runner is a Navy SEAL like Mike Murphy, who has been trained to run miles and miles carrying a 60 pound load. In the mountains. The other is a 300-lb couch potato whose idea of exercise is reaching for the TV remote control. Suppose I ask both runners: do you intend to finish the 10 laps? Should I believe them if they both say yes?

Look, marriage is like building a house. People can say whatever they want about their prospects for success, but the will doesn’t decide here. You have to certain skills, you have to have a certain amount of money, you have to have a plan, you have to be able to read blueprints, you have to be able to hire specialists, you understand the differences between materials, etc. When you think about it, no long-term enterprise can be accomplished by act of will. Piano recitals, math exams, investing for retirement… nothing can be done by sheer act of will.

Now with that being said, let’s take a look at an example.

An example

I found this article in the Wall Street Journal way back in 2011, but it fits my conversation with my friend.

The author, Susan Gregory Thomas, lists some of the mistakes she made that led her to get a divorce in her first marriage.

This is the first thing I saw that caught my eye:

“Whatever happens, we’re never going to get divorced.” Over the course of 16 years, I said that often to my husband, especially after our children were born.

So she is trying to express an intention here, repeatedly, to her husband. I think the point here is that she did have good intentions but as we shall see that was not enough to prevent the divorce. That’s a warning to others that good intentions are not enough.

Here is the second thing:

I believed that I had married my best friend as fervently as I believed that I’d never get divorced. No marital scenario, I told myself, could become so bleak or hopeless as to compel me to embed my children in the torture of a split family. And I wasn’t the only one with strong personal reasons to make this commitment.

I noticed that a lot of people seem to think that being compatible is very important to marriage. But I don’t think that it is the most important thing. For example, you would not expect two cocaine addicts or two gambling addicts, etc. to have a stable marriage. I think marriage is more like a job interview where there are specific things that each person has to be able to do in order to make it work. So again, she’s giving a warning to others that compatibility is not a guarantee of marriage success.

And there’s more:

My husband and I were as obvious as points on a graph in a Generation X marriage study. We were together for nearly eight years before we got married, and even though statistics show that divorce rates are 48% higher for those who have lived together previously, we paid no heed.

We also paid no heed to his Catholic parents, who comprised one of the rare reassuringly unified couples I’d ever met, when they warned us that we should wait until we were married to live together. As they put it, being pals and roommates is different from being husband and wife. How bizarrely old-fashioned and sexist! We didn’t need anything so naïve or retro as “marriage.” Please. We were best friends.

Sociologists, anthropologists and other cultural observers tell us that members of Generation X are more emotionally invested in our spouses than previous generations were. We are best friends; our marriages are genuine partnerships. Many studies have found that Generation X family men help around the house a good deal more than their forefathers. We depend on each other and work together.

So here I am seeing that she rejected sex roles, parental advice, or the moral guidelines of Christianity. Again, she is discussing some of the factors that I at least think contribute to divorce. I think that she is right to highlight the fact that she was wrong to disregard the statistics on cohabitation.

So here are some of the mistakes:

  • reject advice from parents
  • avoid chastity
  • cohabitate for EIGHT YEARS
  • embrace feminism, reject complementarian sex roles
  • thinking that good intentions would overcome every challenge

So, what does the research show works to have a stable marriage?

  • chastity
  • rejection of feminism
  • regular church attendance
  • parental involvement in the courting
  • parents of both spouses married
  • no previous divorces

Guess what? You can’t break all the rules and still succeed by sheer force of will.  If you break all the rules like that woman in the story, you can’t have a working marriage. Not without repudiating everything you believed, and taking steps to undo all the damage from everything you’ve done. You can’t keep all the bad beliefs and bad habits you’ve built up and marry them to a marriage that will stand the test of time.

A good marriage is an enterprise, and it requires that your character be changed to fit the requirements. There is no way to short-circuit the preparation / selection processes by act of will. And just because your friends are getting married, that’s no reason for you to rush into it unprepared. The best way to prepare for marriage is pick people of the opposite sex and practice marriage behaviors (e.g. – listening, helping) with them – even with people you don’t intend to marry. Take an interest in their lives and practice denying yourself to help them with their problems. That’s better than making idle promises you’re not able to keep. And this works the same for men and for women. Both people need to get this right.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Christians embracing premarital sex, despite increased risk of divorce

I’ve posted before about how premarital sex wrecks the stability of marriages by making divorce more likely. And I wanted to begin this post by showing that this is not a controversial point in the research.

Here another good study on relationship tempo and relationship quality.

Abstract:

Rapid sexual involvement may have adverse long-term implications for relationship quality. This study examined the tempo of sexual intimacy and subsequent relationship quality in a sample of married and cohabiting men and women. Data come from the Marital and Relationship Survey, which provides information on nearly 600 low- to moderate-income couples living with minor children. Over one third of respondents became sexually involved within the first month of the relationship. Bivariate results suggested that delaying sexual involvement was associated with higher relationship quality across several dimensions. The multivariate results indicated that the speed of entry into sexual relationships was negatively associated with marital quality, but only among women. The association between relationship tempo and relationship quality was largely driven by cohabitation. Cohabiting may result in poorer quality relationship because rapid sexual involvement early in the romantic relationship is associated with entrance into shared living.

The authors are from Cornell University and University of Wisconsin – Madison. Hardly bastions of conservatism! This is not complicated, this is black and white.

Here’s another recent study that shows that if a woman has more than her husband as a premarital sex partner, her risk of divorce increases.

His findings:

Using nationally representative data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, I estimate the association between intimate premarital relationships (premarital sex and premarital cohabitation) and subsequent marital dissolution. I extend previous research by considering relationship histories pertaining to both premarital sex and premarital cohabitation. I find that premarital sex or premarital cohabitation that is limited to a woman’s husband is not associated with an elevated risk of marital disruption. However, women who have more than one intimate premarital relationship have an increased risk of marital dissolution.

Here’s another study that makes it even more clear.

Findings:

Data from the 1988 US National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) were utilized to assess the impact of premarital sexual activity on subsequent marital stability. Among white NSFG subjects first married in 1965-85, virgin brides were significantly less to have become separated or divorced (25%) than women who had not been virgins at marriage (35%).

[...]The lower risk of divorce on the part of white women with no premarital sexual experience persisted even after numerous intervening and background variables were controlled.

This study supports what the Bible says about chastity and premarital sex:

1 Cor. 7:8-9:

8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to stay single as I am.

9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

The idea of “burning” here has to do with sexual desire. Here Paul tells all unmarried people that if they cannot control their sexual desires, they need to get married. Why? Because Paul assumes that one cannot fulfill this sexual desire outside of the marital bed. While Paul would love for them to remain single (1 Cor. 7:7), he believes that sex outside of marriage is a destructive sin and cannot be used as a gratifying release of our sexual passions.

Now despite studies supporting the Biblical prohibition on premarital sex, Christians are actually embracing it. Why is that? Well, church pastors are very, very set in the idea that the Bible is assumed to be inerrant in church, and they feel that supporting what the Bible says with actual evidence is “putting evidence at the same level as the Bible”. That’s their approach – don’t confirm the Bible with evidence, just tell people to assume that the Bible is true, and tell them to believe it, in the face of mounting culture pressure, secular policies and a resurgence of atheism. 

Take a look at this review by a pious pastor of a recent apologetics book, if you don’t believe me.

Excerpt:

Cold-Case Christianity places far too much emphasis on the role of extrabiblical sources. No doubt there is a legitimate role for biblical archaeology and extrabiblical writing from antiquity. Christianity is, after all, a faith firmly rooted in human history. But there is a grave danger when truth is suspended because of an apparent lack of corroboration from extrabiblical sources. And Wallace, I’m afraid, wanders too close to this dark side of apologetics.

All of chapter 12, for instance, is devoted to proving the Gospels have external corroborative evidence—“evidence that are independent of the Gospel documents yet verify the claims of the text” (183). Wallace then addresses the historicity of the pool of Bethesda and makes another worrying statement: “For many years, there was no evidence for such a place outside of John’s Gospel. Because Christianity makes historical claims, archaeology ought to be a tool we can use to see if these claims are, in fact, true” (201-202, emphasis added).

In other words, Wallace seems to suggest we cannot affirm the truth of the Gospel accounts without the stamp of approval from archaeology and other extrabiblical sources. Such reasoning is dangerous, not least because it cannot affirm the inerrancy of the Bible. But also, it places the final court of appeal in the realm of extrabiblical sources rather than of God’s all-sufficient, all-powerful Word.

So does the approach of Bible-thumping church pastors work? Are young people really convinced by proclamations and assertions, piously expressed?

Majority of Christians embrace premarital sex

Consider this article that Dina tweeted from the Christian Post.

Excerpt:

[A] new Christian Mingle study suggests that it is increasingly commonplace for Christians to sleep together outside of a marital context.

In a survey of 716 Christians released in January, only 11 percent said they save sex exclusively for marriage. Instead, 60 percent said they would be willing to have sex without any strings attached, while 23 percent said they would have to be “in love.” Five percent said they would wait to get engaged.

This data supports a 2011 Relevant Magazine poll that revealed that 80 percent of “young, unmarried Christians have had sex” and that “two-thirds have been sexually active in the last year.”

While the findings of a 2012 National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and Grey Matter Research poll did not show outcomes as high as the two previous polls, according to its research, 44 percent of unmarried evangelicals between ages 18-29 said that they had sex, including 25 percent who said they had had sex in the last three months.

You know, if just invoking the Bible piously, and asserting that it’s without error, were enough, then that’s what you’d see people like William Lane Craig doing in debates at the top universities when he faces off against atheists. But he doesn’t do that. Dr. Craig appeals to evidence outside the Bible in order to explain why the Bible ought to be respected when we make our decisions. There is no such thing as pious fideism when you are in front of a crowd of students at a major secular university. And young people, no matter how “nice” they behave in church, are not going to behave like Christians outside of church – especially when they get to an alcohol-soaked, sex-saturated university campus. They need reasons and evidence to support the claims they read in the Bible before they get challenged.

We need to train pastors who understand how to construct an argument and how to support arguments with evidence. Because when the kids get to college, they are going to face a tsunami of propaganda from the pro-sexual-immmorality crowd. (WARNING: that link describes what happens during “Sex Week” on college campuses. Reader discretion is advised!) They need to be able to explain their views using something other than praise songs and Bible verse memorization, or they are going to fall away under peer pressure and shaming by secular leftist professors. And they need to have that information BEFORE they make the decisions that ruin their ability to commit.

By the way, another great book on the topic of premarital sex is “Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children” by Joe S. McIlhaney Jr., M.D. and Freda McKissic Bush, M.D. Again – look at the research and be persuaded, and be persuasive with others. Don’t be like these pastors who think that praise hymns and charismatic preaching are enough to make young people do the right thing, because it’s not working. It’s not working.

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

Can you have an apologetics ministry and still hold down a full-time job?

J. Warner Wallace is passionate about encouraging Christians to keep their day jobs and do their apologetics ministry without financial constraints. He did it, and it worked for him. He has just posted a list of people who have full-time vocations with a part-time apologetics ministry.

He writes:

The Christian community is experiencing an apologetics “renaissance”, and this resurgence of interest in Christian Case Making is being driven by an unexpected group of “tent-making” Christian Case Makers. Like the Apostle Paul, these avocational apologists draw their income from “conventional” careers (Paul was described as a tent-maker inActs 18:1-3) as they evangelize, preach, make a case or serve. I’m proud to be a member of this growing group of “One Dollar Apologists”. In this post, I’d like to bring your attention to many of the tent-making Case Makers having an impact in our world today. If you are interested in apologetics, you’ve undoubtedly visited many of the websites I’ve collected here. In fact, you may not have realized these resources were being provided by people who are working in vocations similar to your own. As you scan this list of tent-making apologetics websites, take note of the variety of occupations held by the men and women behind the scenes…

I checked out the list to see what all the bloggers I read do in their day jobs, and was pleased to see a number of people in the list who are in science, technology and engineering fields. That’s what I do, and I think it’s the best thing to do. So for the rest of this post I want to give some reasons why people who want to be tent-maker case-makers should consider a STEM degree and a STEM job. (STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).

Why you should prefer a STEM degree

I always recommend that people prefer STEM degrees when they want to do a “tent-maker” model of apologetics ministry, for five reasons:

1. Doing a STEM degree will make you miserable and give you nightmares for life, and nothing you do after you do a STEM degree can ever be as bad as sitting in a lab all night trying to get something to work that doesn’t want to work. Not even changing diapers. It’s good to get you to accept that life is hard, that your feelings don’t matter to anyone and that you can’t have your way all the time.

2. Doing a STEM degree will give you a lot of money for your ministry, so much that you can even give some away to other ministries. Yesterday, I sent $150 to a Ratio Christi chapter that I like and $300 to another apologetics ministry that I like. And that’s not a problem because a STEM job typically pays better than average.

3. Doing a STEM degree will help you to pay back any student loans you take out, which is a big problem these days because the economy is lousy for young graduates.

4. Doing a STEM degree will shield you from a lot of the pressure you might face from the secularists and leftists who dominate the university classroom, because there just isn’t time to talk about politics much in those classes. The only time I ever got any trouble was my machine learning / search algorithms course in graduate school.

5. Doing a STEM degree will give you an advantage in credibility when discussing apologetics. I think that atheists are more impressed when we have some experience with a demanding job in some practical field. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find arguments like “the argument from fantasy literature” and “the argument from desire” persuasive coming from artsy people who don’t know how to do anything practical for money in the real world.

If you are a woman and want to be a stay-at-home mom, that is excellent, but a STEM degree is still for you! I think it’s useful for everyone. I have a friend who is busy doing her nursing degree part-time and she is a stay-at-home mom, and some of my favorite women apologists (Letitia Wong and Melissa Travis) have science backgrounds.

The best degrees for a tent-maker

If you are just picking a STEM field, then here is a list of the majors that lead to higher paying jobs, although other jobs might even help you to study apologetics, like being a police detective.

Top 10 highest-paid college majors

  1. Petroleum Engineering: $120,000
  2. Pharmacy Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration: $105,000
  3. Mathematics and Computer Science: $98,000
  4. Aerospace Engineering: $87,000
  5. Chemical Engineering: $86,000
  6. Electrical Engineering: $85,000
  7. Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering: $82,000
  8. Mechanical Engineering: $80,000
  9. Metallurgical Engineering: $80,000
  10.  Mining and Mineral Engineering: $80,000

And here are some majors that you should avoid at all costs:

  1. Counseling Psychology: $29,000
  2. Early Childhood Education: $36,000
  3. Theology and Religious Vocations: $38,000
  4. Human Services and Community Organization: $38,000
  5. Social Work: $39,000
  6. Drama and Theater Arts: $40,000
  7. Studio Arts: $40,000
  8. Communication Disorders Sciences and Service: $40,000
  9. Visual and Performing Arts: $40,000
  10. Health and Medical Preparatory Programs: $40,000

If you’re not going to do a STEM degree, then a trade degree in the right area can be just as good. The main thing is to be able to do work, preferably in the private sector, that is valuable enough to someone else that they are willing to pay you for it. I think in this economy, it is particularly reckless to be doing a PhD in the humanities, unless you are already retired and fully-funded from your previous work.

Related posts

J. Warner Wallace: practical advice on becoming an effective one-dollar apologist

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , ,

New study: unmarried parents four times more likely to split up than married couples

Dina sent me this article from the UK Daily Mail.

Excerpt:

Unmarried parents are four times more likely to split up than those who have wed, research revealed yesterday.

It also indicated that co-habiting couples with children under 16 are now responsible for the majority of  family breakdowns.

On average, 5.3 per cent of these relationships ended each year from 2009-12, according to the study.

But among those who had taken their vows, the average rate was only 1.3 per cent, said the Marriage Foundation think-tank and university academics.

The high rate of co-habiting parents in family splits comes despite these couples making up only a fifth of those with children.

The figures were gathered from the findings of a £50 million state-sponsored research project, the Understanding Society survey.

Over the last 20 years, it has gathered information on the progress of families and now tracks events in 40,000 homes.

I have a friend who moved in with a non-Christian guy before she became a Christian and they broke up. She told me all about it. When I was listening to her, the thought occurred to me that women and men think that co-habitation is leading to different places. And it turns out that there is some evidence to support this intuition.

Consider  this fascinating article from the Atlantic, authored by marriage researcher W. Bradford Wilcox. The article discusses the variances between cohabitating men and women regarding goals and expectations.

Excerpt:

According to a new paper from RAND by sociologists Michael Pollard and Kathleen Mullan Harris, cohabiting young adults have significantly lower levels of commitment than their married peers. This aversion to commitment is particularly prevalent among young men who live with their partners.

Pollard and Harris found that the majority of cohabiting young men do not endorse the maximum indicator of relationship permanence: 52 percent of cohabiting men between ages 18 and 26 are not “almost certain” that their relationship is permanent. Moreover, a large minority (41 percent) of men report that they are not “completely committed” to their live-in girlfriends. By contrast, only 39 percent of cohabiting women in the same age group are not “almost certain” their relationship will go the distance, and only 26 percent say they are not “completely committed”. Not surprisingly, the figures above and below also indicate that married women and men are much less likely to exhibit the low levels of commitment characteristic of many cohabiting relationships today.

Women are thinking that it is going to lead to some deeper commitment from the man, but men are thinking that they are getting what they want already (sex) and that they want to avoid the higher risks of making a more formal commitment.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , ,

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