Undue delay of marriage

Discussion in 'Family Forum' started by Stargazer65, Sep 28, 2011.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. TexanRose

    TexanRose Puritan Board Sophomore

    I think one's views on birth control are relevant to this question.

    Some marry young but with the expectation that the wife will work to support the family until, for instance, the husband finishes graduate school. In those cases child bearing is often delayed for a few years.

    Others might prefer to delay the marriage rather than marry and delay the child bearing.
  2. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    Yes, I have heard those verses used in that context. The difficulty with things like entailment is that it is also necessary to take it in context. For example, note these particular usages of the construction נְעוּרִים+construct:

    Job 13:26 For you write bitter things against me and make me inherit the iniquities of my youth.

    Psalm 25:7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!

    Jeremiah 31:19 For after I had turned away, I relented, and after I was instructed, I slapped my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth.'

    Ezekiel 23:21 Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed your young breasts."

    Now, obviously, I don't know of anyone who is going to argue that these texts are presuming that iniquity, sin, disgrace, and lewdness will (ordinarily) take place in youth in the same sense that you are saying marriage is. The answer to the question is whether the text is intending to normalize marriage in youth. Obviously, given the above examples, that cannot be assumed just from the mere phrase.

    I remember talking to Dr. Lawson Younger about this at TEDS. We were sitting in a class one time, and he was talking about marriage in the Ancient Near East. He told us that marriage at this time period took place at the age of 13, and, of course, it was usually arranged by the parents, so the children had little say in when they got married. I asked him about these things in relationship to the phrase "wife of your youth," and he seemed to say that it was more of a metonymy for "your wife."

    I thought it was an odd understanding, until I read the same thing in Bruce Waltke's commentary on Proverbs in a discussion of the relationship between Proverbs 2:17 and 5:18. Apparently, there is a whole exegetical discussion surrounding the relationship between these two verses:

    However, it is interesting to note that Waltke, in the same work, does believe that the early contraction of marriage in the Ancient Near East may have something to do with it. In discussion Proverbs 5:18 in the same work he writes that "The expression points to marriage contracted at an early age (see 2:17) and represents (or, better, anticipates) the son as married" [Waltke, p. 321]. Thus Waltke does not seem to rule out the possibility that this is referring to the fact that people married due to arranged marriage very young in the Ancient Near East.

    In my own opinion, I think it depends upon the context in which the term is used. In Proverbs, very clearly, I think it has the connotation of "guide" associated with the phrase "wife of your youth" since we are dealing with a son growing in wisdom from the time of youthful immaturity. However, one could argue, based upon the fact that Malachi is in the context of divorce, that it likewise has the connotation of a faithful guide who has left, similar to the situation with Gomer. The fact of the matter is that *both* things could be implied by the phase, namely, the cultural practice of contraction of marriage by the parents at a very young age, and the fact that this person is then a guide, companion, and teacher. However, which is emphasized is going to be entirely dependent on the context.

    God Bless,
  3. Stargazer65

    Stargazer65 Puritan Board Freshman


    I haven't heard Mohler and others talking about this subject, is there a link or source where you could refer me.

    Yep, I don't doubt that this is true, that was how I interpreted the confessional statement. Of course, I also was broadening the definition of undue delay of marriage to include long term boyfriend-girlfriend relationships, and long term recreational dating. Such things probably did not commonly exist in the church at the time of the confession, but I think the principle is the same.
  4. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Adam.
  5. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    Mohler has addressed this issue quite often:

    AlbertMohler.com – The Case for (Early) Marriage

    AlbertMohler.com – Waiting Too Long for Marriage

    AlbertMohler.com – The Delay of Marriage and the Decline of Church Attendance

    AlbertMohler.com – Marriage Going Out of Style?

    AlbertMohler.com – Delaying Marriage — Another Look at the Costs

    AlbertMohler.com – More Americans Living Alone

    One of my major difficulties is that a lot of Mohler's argumentation is sociological and not exegetical. When you make your arguments on the basis of sociology, sometimes the situation is more complex than a simple blanket idea that "delay of marriage" is a sin. As I mentioned in my first post, the problem might be that people are simply using their marital status in ungodly ways. Something that is inherently good can be used in a way that is ungodly, such as high tech video equipment that can be used either for the teaching of God's word or for p0rnography.

    I think the question is what principle you are taking out of this statement of the confession. The point of the statement is that, once someone is engaged, they know that this person is definitely going to be their spouse. That creates temptation issues if the engagement is drawn out too long.

    However, that is totally different from a society that celebrates a lack of self-control, and praises a lack of virginity. In such cases, the issues go much deeper than temptation that can result from the fact that you know that you are going to be married to this specific woman. In such a case, it involves a heart that is set in rebellion against God. That cannot be cured by marriage; it can only be cured by the blood of Jesus Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

    I would say that extending this out to include simple relationships between boyfriends and girlfriends doesn't take seriously the nature of sin as something that begins in the heart. We sin because we are sinners, not because we are unmarried. It is the spirit that cleanses us and produces the fruit of self-control. Fundamentally, such an application confuses instances where normal everyday things such as engagement or death can lean someone toward sexual sin, and sexual sin that is simply the result of a wicked and evil heart, with little or no influence externally. If a person must have sexual relations in a dating relationship, their problems go deeper than simply that they are unmarried; they go to the whole issue of the wickedness of our hearts, and our need for repentance in the area of our sexual behavior. To confuse these to things is, I believe, to misapply the scriptures and the confessions.

    God Bless,
  6. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    This thread may have taken a more complicated turn than was necessary, although like the others I'm grateful to Adam for the interesting and informative posts.

    The Lord wants godly seed, and so there is an external influence that causes sexual sin. It's a built in desire that generally has to find an outlet, and that's marriage. It's the simplest explanation of what the divines meant, in my opinion.
  7. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    The problem is that sexual sin occurs with people who are twelve and thirteen years old. Should we go back to having people marry at 12 or 13 years old simply because they have "a built in desire that generally has to find an outlet, and that's marriage?" Again, it doesn't make any sense.

    The only way to make sense of sexual relations between people in their early teens is to recognize the wickedness of the human heart as a major factor. If that is not recognized, my fear is that people who naturally have these evil desires will take that desire into marriage and end up hurting, not only their wife, but possibly, their children as well. That is why I would say a proper distinction needs to be made.

    God Bless,
  8. Stargazer65

    Stargazer65 Puritan Board Freshman

    I don't think anyone discounts that the wicked heart is the root of all problems. If we had no sinful heart, we wouldn't be talking about this. You also rightly point out that marriage is not the cure, sanctification through the Holy Spirit is the cure. But God has given us marriage as a good thing, and if we despise that gift, there are consequences. Adultery for one.

    I'm thinking of young people who are old enough to marry, but who have an attitude of not being ready for marriage. Also, I'm thinking about a church culture that encourages this attitude. No one has considered that we should encourage 12 and 13 year olds to marry. However, the scriptures teach that sin affects everyone. If the 25 year olds eschew marriage and are promiscuous, the 12 and 13 year olds can be led astray by example.
  9. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    Who said anything about "despising" marriage? I certainly didn't. I am sure that you may find someone who refuses to get married because he thinks marriage is a curse. However, the solution is not to get him married, but for his heart to be changed so that he no longer believes that marriage is a curse.

    Also, I think there are some major assumptions in the statement "ready for marriage." I don't even think that is the issue. I think the issue is growing in spiritual maturity. If you grow in spiritual maturity, you will be able to serve God wherever he leads, either in marriage or in singleness.

    I think my main point is that there are a lot of reasons people do things that are not morally wrong such as delaying marriage in this sense. Yes, they can do the right thing for the wrong reason. Imagine a someone who knows that their coworker has stolen property from the company. However, the reason that they go and turn them in is because they hate them and want to get back at them. Now, in such an instance, is the action of turning someone in wrong? Not in and of itself; it is wrong because the person has an ill motive for so doing, even though the action itself is morally just.

    In other words, there are many reasons why twenty-five year olds as well as twelve and thirteen year olds engage in extramarital sexual relations. Sometimes, there are external factors that can be helped by getting married. However, if the person's heart is in rebellion against God, then marriage is not going to help. That is why I raised the issue of thirteen year olds. Very clearly, getting married is not going to help them in that situation. So, could we not also conclude that there is a sense in which that is true for many 25 year olds as well? The point is that motives are complex things, and there will be instances in which the advice "get married" may end up doing more harm than good, not because there is anything wrong with marriage, but because there is something already wrong with the way the person is using their singleness. Give them ammunition to hurt people other than themselves, and they will do it. In such an instance, what needs to be done is not give a glib answer like "get married," but to call that person to repentance.

    I would say that the argument presented on this thread is an example of confusing something that may be sound advice in certain contexts with universal Biblical command.

    God Bless,
  10. Stargazer65

    Stargazer65 Puritan Board Freshman


    I'm not directing comments at you, please don't take it like that. This thread is not directed at any person or persons at all, it is about a perceived trend in the church.
  11. Stargazer65

    Stargazer65 Puritan Board Freshman

    I think you misunderstand my OP Adam. The purpose of the thread is not to present marriage as a cure for sexual sin. Nor is it meant as a command for everyone, everywhere to get married at a younger age. I quote from my previous post:

  12. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    I don't think you understand what I am saying. I am saying that no one *needs* a good reason to delay marriage in this sense anymore then they need a good reason to eat pizza for supper instead of chili and baked potatoes.

    Also, I am not saying you *are* directing your comments at me. My point is simply that an explanation such as that people are "despising marriage" was not mentioned to this point, and is simply irrelevant when we think of the complexity of issues of the heart that are involved in a person doing something that is inherently okay [delaying marriage], but doing so for an immoral purpose. Explanations such as "these people are despising marriage" is way too simplistic.

    In other words, I believe there is a problem in a church, but delay of marriage is not the problem; it is how people use this delay in marriage. They can use it for Godly purposes, or they can use it for selfish reasons. What we identify as a "problem of delay of marriage" comes when you use this delay for selfish reasons, and, because they are doing things for selfish reasons, then cannot even begin to hear if God is calling them to marriage, because they are so absorbed in themselves. However, it isn't the delay of marriage that is the problem; it is the selfishness that is the problem. Get rid of the selfishness, and you will find more people willing to consider the possibility that God is calling them to marriage, or using their singleness to glorify God.

    God Bless,
  13. Stargazer65

    Stargazer65 Puritan Board Freshman


    I agree that selfishness is the root problem.

    I would disagree that no one needs a good reason to delay marriage. It's not a choice like what's for dinner, it's a duty, see the Larger Catechism:

    Q. 138. What are the duties required in the seventh commandment?
    A. The duties required in the seventh commandment are, chastity in body, mind, affections,767 words,768 and behavior;769 and the preservation of it in ourselves and others;770 watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses;771 temperance,772 keeping of chaste company,773 modesty in apparel;774 marriage by those that have not the gift of continency,775 conjugal love,776 and cohabitation;777 diligent labor in our callings;778 shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations thereunto.779

    I don't believe what I emphasized is taught enough in the church, and I call that despising (neglecting) marriage. It is true that selfishness leads to delaying marriage for poor reasons, but I believe it is equally true that delaying marriage leads to selfishness. You said:

    I think there would be less of the latter problem if there was less of the former problem. Granted, marriage is not a cure for the human heart, there will be problems still. But, God gave us marriage as a gift and we should use it, unless we are hindered somehow.

    So I believe delay of marriage is a problem in the church. It's sounds like you just believe that my emphasis is on the wrong aspect (i.e. selfishness is the issue, not delay of marriage). Looking at things from a broad perspective that is probably a fair statement. But I am purposely focusing on the more narrow aspect of the effect of delay of marriage in the church.
  14. JBaldwin

    JBaldwin Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I had a very interesting conversation with an elderly minister yesterday on this subject. He mentioned that one of the problems of delaying marriage is that both women and men get busy "trying out" different ones to see who is the best for them. After trying out several people, they get confused and don't know what they want. This problem used to be primarily something observable outside the church. Now it's the thing to switch from one boyfriend/girlfriend to the next. Even if there is no sex or impropriety involved, this does become an issue.
  15. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    I don't think we can quote the catechisms as scripture. In fact, the two verses that the catechism gives as support for that are the verses that I exegeted above, 1 Corinthians 7:2,9. In fact, I would say that, in light of the research that has been done by folks such as Fee, Blomberg, Hays, and others in the exegesis of this passage, the Church should, indeed, rethink whether there is such a thing as a "gift of continence." Scripture is the ultimate authority, not the confessions. In fact, that is one reason why, although I believe the Westminster confession is generally faithful, I hold to the three forms of unity, is that I could find no mention of a gift of continence in those documents.

    So, no, I don't think anyone needs a good reason to delay marriage, and I *do* believe it *is* like a choice of what to have for dinner, because I find no scriptural support for a virgin being bound to anything in terms of marital status.

    The problem is that it is not a matter of neglecting marriage, but a matter of neglecting your position on the subject. The two are not the same thing. The reason I would say that your position is neglected is because I believe it is exegetically tenuous. Secondly, I don't think that one is "neglecting" marriage if one doesn't get married. A person who helps watch children on the weekends so a couple can go out and spend time alone is certainly not neglecting marriage; they are helping it! A person who seeks to help in the education of covenant children is certainly not neglecting marriage; they are helping it! The point is that there is a way to nurture strong marriages in the church without actually getting married, and as long as a person is doing that, they are not "neglecting" marriage.

    Also, as I have already said and you have already said, it is not delaying marriage that leads to selfishness. It is the condition of the heart. Sin comes from the heart; the surroundings simply bring out what is already there. Again, I don't see how you can hold this position together if you do, indeed, believe that.

    Did not God give both the chili and mashed potatoes as well as the pizza as a gift? Does that mean we can use one, and not the other? Again, does that someone mean that it would be wrong to give the gift to someone else? There are many assumptions in this line of argumentation.

    I would say that before you can identify something as a "problem," then you need to show why it is a problem from scripture, either by vocabulary or concept. When it comes to virgins, the Bible presents marital status as something that is morally neutral. Never, does it ever present the idea that virgin who is unmarried is in the wrong simply because he is delaying marriage. Because of that, it is not so much a matter of the delay itself, but how the delay is being used.

    So, in short, if I am going to be convinced of this position, I am going to have to be convinced from scripture. If I am not persuaded from either scripture or sound reason, I have to stick with what I have said.

    God Bless,
  16. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Matthew 19:12 seems to indicate that some are born without the normal impulses that would come to legitimate expression in marriage. Is that not a "gift of continence" of sorts?

    It seems to me that blaming "selfishness" without regard to the circumstances is inadequate. Many people become cranky when they are hungry or under stress: no doubt they need to learn to be self-controlled even under those circumstances; but it is simply not common sense to suggest that supplying food or lifting burdens are irrelevant to the matter - that they will then only be selfish in a different way. "It is not good that the man should be alone." Marriage was provided for the preventing of fornication and for the mutual help and support that the one ought to have of the other. That some are able to function quite appropriately without that by no means implies that everyone can.
  17. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    It's probably difficult to assess whether another person is unduly delaying marriage, or whether he has good reasons for not getting married, so that a pastor can say, "You are guilty of undue delay."

    It is a complicated business with many different factors involved.

    Some people may be more suited to the single life than others, as our Lord and the WCF indicate. Some are naturally suited for the single life, while others are denying themselves marriage for the sake of the kingdom of God.

    The question of when or to whom one should marry, maybe comes under the rubric of
    It takes wisdom to know if, when and to whom to get married.

    We should marry if we believe it's God's preceptive will for us, but if it's God's will He will provide the spouse and the opportunity.

    It's not God's preceptive will for everyone to get married; that is, it may be clearly very unwise for some people to get married.

    No doubt there are some Christians out there that have good health, a decent job, and some - or one - suitable woman who would want to marry them, and they would be more productive in God's kingdom by getting married and having lots of children.

    Maybe God is speaking to such in His Word and Providence that they should get hitched.
  18. Stargazer65

    Stargazer65 Puritan Board Freshman


    I have known one missionary, who I believe had the gift of continency, who took his decision to not marry very seriously. He was able to direct his desires to his ministry by God's grace. He is now married BTW, but he earnestly prayed and meditated about his marital condition in both cases.

    I don't believe it fair to equate a choice of pizza or chili, with a choice of whether or not to marry. Marriage is an institution given in Genesis 2 at creation. God didn't make us male and female to introduce an option to singleness, it is a part of our nature. The decision to marry or not is a serious business, one that should be approached with biblical wisdom and prayer. I see a lack of that attitude in many young Christians today, albeit not as bad as the rest of the world yet. Flippantly putting off marriage until they feel the time is right (i.e. after I'm done with the pleasures of the world).

    I don't advocate any sort of investigation to determine whether people are avoiding marriage or not. I do however believe it is a duty to encourage young people to marry, if they have those desires.

    ---------- Post added at 03:58 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:43 PM ----------

    Thank you Ruben. You expressed my thoughts very coherently:candle::

  19. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    I would say that those who are eunuchs from the womb of their mother are eunuchs who are born with some physical deformity. Hence, the three categories would be 1. those who are born with a birth defect, 2. Those who are castrated, 3. Those who have chosen to remain single in order to serve God in that state. Even John Calvin, who argued for a gift of continence, took this interpretation:

    I certainly agree that you have to take into account the context of the actions. I may not agree with someone's selfish behavior, but I might understand why they did it, given their context. And, certainly, as I mentioned above, I don't have any difficulty with the fact that "get married" might be good advice in certain contexts. The problem is that it is good *advice,* not Biblical command.

    I believe that one can make strong argument that it is not good that the man should be married because of the entrance of sin in Genesis 3. Many of the punishments of the fall are directed precisely at mankind's experience in marriage. For example, Eve is punished with pain in childbirth, which is something that can only occur within marriage. Also, you have the strife and infighting in marriage in the second part of her punishment. In other words, it is as if the woman was made to be a helper for the man, but failed in that task when she led him into sin.

    Of course, we as Christians would acknowledge that the only solution to this is the salvation and redemption of Christ. The ultimate solution to man not being alone is union with Christ in salvation, because it is there that we are no longer alone. The idea of God as our helper is all over the Hebrew Bible, and he is the only one who can truly deal with this loneliness, because he is the only one who will never fail as our helper.

    Also, it is difficult to know what you mean by "function quite appropriately without that." I would say that the only thing that we need for holy living the Christian life is the word of God and the Holy Spirit in us, and the Christian community. If we have the scriptures and the Holy Spirit, how is it that God will not provide a way of escape when we are temped in areas of loneliness or fornication? In other words, "I am not married" is no justification for sexual sin.

    God Bless,

    ---------- Post added at 03:28 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:08 PM ----------


    First of all, I think that only looking at Genesis 2 is problematic. That doesn't take into account the affects of the fall upon marriage, and it also doesn't take into account our union with Christ as the ultimate cure for the fall. Hence, marriage would exist in this life to remind us that we are still here living in this fallen world, and are still looking forward to something greater, and singleness would remind us that our ultimate destiny is not union with a woman, but union with Christ. Hence, one can argue from the effects of the fall, and our union with Christ to singleness in this present life.

    Also, notice the false dilemma in your last statement. Unless we command it, we are not encouraging it. I would say that one can encourage marriage as every bit as honorable a state as singleness, and point out that there are many good benefits to being married. Still, that doesn't mean that it is a Biblical commandment for anyone.

    God Bless,
  20. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Would you say that "I haven't met the right person yet" constitutes a sufficient reason?
  21. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Is there a reason to take it of birth defects instead of something else? And is there a reason not to take the third option literally, a la Origen?
    I am not sure if by making a case that it is good for the man not to marry you mean more than what Paul says about sparing them trouble or not. If you do mean more than that, I think you go too far. It is also Paul's direction that younger widows marry and bear children - and plainly that implies that someone else ought to be willing to marry them! And in that context, marriage is part of the remedy for sins they would otherwise be likely to fall into. Once that contention is admitted, "undue delay of marriage" really ought to cease being an issue.

    Of course being unmarried gives no excuse for sexual sin. But if it is a help to a younger widow in her battle against sin to be engaged in a calling appropriate to her with a husband and children, there is no reason to object to the common-sense view that marriage does, in fact, provide quite a helpful remedy against fornication as well.
  22. Stargazer65

    Stargazer65 Puritan Board Freshman

    The fall has changed the quality of marriage but it doesn't change the importance of marriage. Mathew 19:4-5 "He answered, Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?"
    Also, the same command to "Be fruitful and multiply" is given both before and after the fall. It's difficult to see how that would be accomplished without marriage.

    I don't think I implied anywhere that unless we command it, we are not encouraging it: Keep in mind that whether marriage is a duty or not is a sidebar issue. As I posted earlier:

    ---------- Post added at 05:58 AM ---------- Previous post was at 05:51 AM ----------

    From my point of view it would be sufficient. If someone said that to me, I would take it at face value. Now, if they were someone I knew a long time, and I suspected that they were making excuses, then I'd start to prod them gently.
    If that didn't work, then I'd turn their case over to the women who feel the need to matchmake. :lol:

    ---------- Post added at 06:05 AM ---------- Previous post was at 05:58 AM ----------

    I agree, it's not a small deal. You develop deep friendships with members of the opposite sex that you can't maintain your whole life. Even without sex or impropriety, it causes the feeling of being bonded to multiple people in a way that was meant to be only with your spouse.
  23. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    I would say that the reason is, if you take that interpretation, you leave out those who are born with a birth defect. They are a kind of eunuch, to be sure, but they are not that way because they have some kind of gift of continence, nor are they that way because they have been made a eunuch by men, nor are they that way because they have literally made themselves eunuchs.

    Well, if what you mean by sparing them the trouble is the infighting in marriage and the birth pangs that the woman will experience, then I think I can agree. Still, it does point out that there are troubles in marriage due to sin, and that is certainly parallel with the problems found in the statement "it is not good for the man to be alone."

    Actually, look at Paul's context:

    1 Timothy 5:11-15 But refuse to put younger widows on the list, for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married, 12 thus incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their previous pledge. 13 At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. 14 Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach; 15 for some have already turned aside to follow Satan.

    Notice how the context is this list that widows were apparently put onto [some say a list of honor; some say a list of service]. Hence, we are not dealing with virgins in the context. More than that, the context is not even dealing with all widows, but young widows who are prone to be gossips and busybodies. Hence, what Paul appears to be doing is connecting a young widow who has never engaged in this kind of behavior in her life, but now is doing so after her husband died to both her youth, and the death of her husband.

    Consider the widow that has always had an intimate relationship with her husband, always desired her husband, and now has that relationship broken up by death. You no longer have your husband as a companion to talk to. You no longer have his physical and spiritual intimacy. That would, indeed, give the enemy an occasion for reproach, as Satan could easily cause such a person to start becoming a busybody in order to make up for what she has lost. Again, I think it goes back to the context of a previous marriage that has been broken up by death, and the difficulties involved in such a situation for younger widows.

    Also, again, it is true that someone must marry them, but it is untrue that a *virgin* must marry them. Also, as far as undue delay of marriage, we are dealing with this in the context virgins, not in the context of widows and widowers. The issue is whether for *virgins* the Bible states that there is a sin of "undue delay of marriage."

    I would say that there is a reason if the motivations are different. For example, the twelve year old who engages in sexual sin is not someone who we can call to marry as a "helpful remedy" against his sexual sin. The reason is that this young preteen is simply rebelling against the law of God. Getting married will do him no good, because his immaturity and his disregard for God's law will still be there.

    If this is true of a twelve year old, why do we have reason to assume that it may not be true of a twenty-five year old? How will it remedy his sin when the sin will still be there? Also, worst of all, how can you assure that such a person will not cause damage to his wife and children by his sexual sin? We have to be careful that something that seems "common sense" is not, in fact, reductionistic. Sometimes something can seem obvious to us, when, in reality, we are not taking into account all of the factors that are involved.

    All of this is not to say that "get married" may not be good advice for some virgins. The point is that we must examine their context to understand if it will be good advice. Also, it can never be exalted to the position of Biblical command since the Bible gives no such command for virgins. My concern is that, ignoring their context will cause more harm than good.

    God Bless,
  24. Stargazer65

    Stargazer65 Puritan Board Freshman

    The context is single people, not necessarily virgins. I don't see any reason why the same concepts could not apply to widows or widowers. I believe that is merely happenstance, since it would be more common among young people who have not been married.

    ---------- Post added at 08:02 AM ---------- Previous post was at 07:43 AM ----------

    Keep in mind we are not talking about people who have been involved in blatant sexual sin. We are talking about Godly young people who are able to marry, but may need encouragement to do so. I believe blatant sexual sin is a consequence of delaying marriage. If blatant sexual sin is already in the life of a single person, then we are taking the discussion down paths that were never intended in the OP.
  25. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman

    We should be careful to not confuse issues. We must distinguish between the importance of marriage as an institution to a society, and the importance of an individual getting married. The two are not the same thing. I was actually responding to this:

    You were specifically dealing with individuals when you introduced the way in which we were created. My point was that, although that is how we were created, sin has come in and complicated matters.

    Also, I don't know you your citation of Matthew 19 is really relevant to the topic. Matthew 19 is about divorce, and whether or not divorce is permissible. Jesus said, "from the beginning it has not been this way," that is, that a man can divorce his wife. Jesus is going back to the way in which marriage was constructed [namely between one man and one woman], thus excluding divorce. Thus, Jesus is dealing with the structure of marriage, not what it is like to be married after the fall.

    The point was that being single is something that comes about as a result of the fall and redemption. Hence, it is something that comes about after creation and the fall, because of the failure of woman as a helper, to remind us that our ultimate destiny is to be united to *Christ,* our ultimate helper, forever. Hence, I would say that it is grossly simplistic to go back to creation, and not recognize that who we are was affected by the fall, and by our redemption. We truly are new creatures in Christ Jesus, and that has to be taken into account.

    Also, as far as "Be fruitful and multiply," I believe that is a covenant command. The command always appears in covenant contexts in the Pentateuch. Also, I would say that, in Genesis 1:28 that it is mankind as a whole that is commanded to be fruitful and multiply due to the usage of אדם as the antecedent of plural suffixes. Thus, at best what this would prove is that the having and raising of covenant children is one of the functions of the covenant community as a whole. Certainly, no one has denied that this is the case. Every covenant community must have people who are about this task. However, it is a gross overstatement to now say that a certain given individual is obligated to this task.

    It sounds like you are leaping from extreme to extreme. It is either that there is a command for certain virgins to marry without delay, or no one marries. We recognize the importance of marriage, and thus claim that certain people must marry without delay, or we are not recognizing the importance of marriage. These are all false dilemmas.

    First of all, I never said that you believe that *everyone* is commanded to marry. Indeed, even folks like Mohler make those kinds of distinctions. However, the position that there is such a thing as a sin of "delay of marriage" does, indeed, imply that some specific people *must* get married. The question would naturally stem from the fact that every Christian wants to mortify sin in their life. If there were such a sin as "delay of marriage," in which an individual Christian can engage, the way for that individual Christian to solve the problem would be to, obviously, get married. Hence, since all Christians are commanded to mortify sin, all Christians who are engaging in "undue delay of marriage" are commanded to get married.

    God Bless,

    ---------- Post added at 07:21 AM ---------- Previous post was at 07:02 AM ----------


    I think that, what I am pointing out, is that one cannot look into another person's heart, and see the reason why he is committing these sins. Is it out of blatant rebellion against God? Or, is it out of a genuine struggle with sin? And if it is out of a genuine struggle against sin, has the person progressed in their battle far enough that it would not cause harm to other people if they married? These are questions that show the complexity of the matter.

    I think it also shows that we cannot just take commandments given to widows and widowers and apply them to virgins without seeing if the contexts are parallel. The death of a spouse at a young age produces struggles that I am sure most of us can only imagine. It is easy to see how Paul is relating these struggles to his commands. However, the number of qualifications that would have to be there if we were to apply this to a single person are such that, the only way we could accurately do so would be if we could look into their heart, which is impossible.

    Thus, we can counsel them, and we can listen to their struggles, and try to apply scripture in the best way we can, given what we know of them and what they are telling us; however, we cannot make it an absolute Biblical command.

    Also, to be honest, as a single person myself, when I see people giving things as commands that are exegetically tenuous, it doesn't encourage me to get married; it encourages me to stay away from marriage. You feel like you want to remain unmarried in order to protest. In dealing with this issue, I have repeatedly had to remain balanced, and recognize that because some people will bind marriage to the conscience of virgins without warrant, that does not mean that God might not be calling you to marriage. I have to serve God ultimately, and not simply overreact to an overreaction. However, I have met young men who say that, if this is the way Christian women are going to think today, then they would rather not get married at all. In other words, what I am saying is that you may be doing the opposite of what you are intending. You are intending to encourage people to get married by introducing this sin of "undue delay of marriage" to virgins, but you may be unnecessarily putting a stumbling block in their way.

    God Bless,
  26. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Not necessarily: just as there might be multiple defects that would result in the same thing, so it could include more than just defects.

    Is the infighting what Paul meant?

    Paul doesn't limit it to young widows who ARE doing this - he's applying it generally to young widows. Instead of being added to the church's rolls, and hence presumably to their financial burdens and perhaps being given responsibilities as well, he settles upon another calling as more generally suitable to young widows - remarriage.

    Anyone who wishes to remain a virgin and realistically can do so is fine to remain in that condition - and that is exactly what the catechism says.

    You can't make any guarantees about what damage other people will or will not cause; every mote of advice we give is given to people with radical problems who are capable of unspeakable evil.

    I think you may be missing the particularity of vocation. The one called to marriage must marry, just as the minister must preach the word or the mother must raise children. But it is not for us to define who is and is not called to marriage, but merely to give advice, according to our own callings and stations.
  27. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    I think that's the key to everything on this thread. You can, with enough argumentation reduce anything to meaninglessness. And when the Scripture is clear and plain, why would you want to? Again, Adam, just an observation. I got much out of your posts.
  28. Stargazer65

    Stargazer65 Puritan Board Freshman

    You are needlessly complicating the matter. It is understood when we make vows that we are not marrying a perfect person. You may not realize that marriage often causes us to deal with sin issues that we may have formerly ignored when single (self-centeredness being one). Far from causing greater sin problems, part of why we marry is that it helps us grow in grace. Two are better than one in that regard. That is why we should not delay marriage. However, if someone can remain single, and grow in grace, they are free to do so.
  29. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    It sounds like a good reason to me.

    But this point of view from Adam is taking things too far:
    Our Apostle gave us instruction on this subject, which emphasises a greater significance before God than whether to choose margherita or pepperoni.
  30. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    I would say that this is difficult to hold contextually, as none of the other kinds of eunuchs are meant to be polysemous. For example, those who have been made eunuchs by men could hardly mean that men appointed this person to be a eunuch, even though they have the full capacity of marriage!

    Not sure. There is some exegetical debate about what Paul meant by the "present distress," and exactly how or if it relates to the trouble that is spoken of in the passage. My point was to say that I got this from exegeting Genesis 3:16, and its relationship to the context of Genesis 1-2. Hence, that is what Paul meant, that is fine with me, as it is consistent with how Genesis describes the effects of the fall on marriage. Still, Genesis 3:16 does mention strife in the marriage relationship, and it does mention it in connection with the fall.

    Not certain I would agree with that. Notice what Paul says:

    1 Timothy 5:13-15 At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. 14 Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach; 15 for some have already turned aside to follow Satan.

    It seems like Paul's reasoning for this command is that some have already turned aside to Satan. The only thing I can infer from the context is that they have become busybodies and idle gossips. This is also the only sense I can make out of an "occasion for reproach," namely, that these women cannot handle being alone, and they have turned to gossiping. However, that temptation is the foundation of Paul's command to the widows.

    Also, I understand the duties and the financial assistance. However, not all widows need financial assistance. If they have a large inheritance, or if they themselves have a strong, steady job, then, obviously, financial assistance would not be necessary; duties, as well, are things that can be given or not given. Also, I would take these present tenses in 5:13 to be gnomic presents, describing something that is generally true of young widows, but not something that is universally true. For example, the sentence "Black bears stand ten feet tall on their hind legs." That doesn't mean that *all* blackbears stand ten feet tall. You might find some that are nine and a half feet, and some that are ten and a half feet. The point is that this is a general characteristic of black bears. This can be especially triggered by a generic subject such as "widows" or "black bear."

    The point is that the only thing I can see this passage commanding is that widows not be put on a list because of these tendencies that they have. However, the specific command for them to marry is in the context of the enemy's occasion for reproach, and the fact that many have gone off to follow Satan. The point seems to be, now that I look at the text closer, that marrying will keep you so busy with the affairs of the household, you won't have time to think about gossip!

    So, in other words I would say that his stated purpose for the command as well as the context of the command itself would lead me to believe that he only wants this command applied in context where you have busybodies and gossip.

    The problem is how to define someone who can "realistically can do so." Clearly, if the issue is sin, because we have the power of God through his Holy Spirit, everyone can be unmarried and not be forced to sin. The issue, as you said, is going to be more of their context, and what is the best advice given their context. However, again, that is more on the level of advice than Biblical command.

    However, if you don't attack the root problem, you can just make it worse. For example, I am reading a book right now for my field education on ministering to people with the word, and the author points out that, if you have someone who comes to you with marital problems, you can't just give them tips to better communication. This is because, if the husband or the wife is controlling, they can begin to use those tips for manipulation. That is my point. Whenever we give advice, we must always attack the root problem, and there are many cases in which "get married" will not attack the root problem, and yes, can end up making things worse.

    The problem is that a person who is living a selfish lifestyle may not be called to marriage. Hence, if there is a problem of "delay of marriage" in this sense, there is no way it would be externally discernible. The reason is because you would have to say "All people with the characteristic x have the calling to marriage." However, there is not anything externally that one could point to in order to say for sure that this person is called to marriage. That is why I said it is more an attitude of following God wherever he leads, whether to marriage or singleness.

    Also, I should point out that, according to the apostle Paul, we are to do all things to the glory of God. Paul views all of life, even our eating, as service to God. Hence, I don't understand how the observation that this is vocational is helpful.


    The problem is, Tim, that the command would not be meaningless. If a woman lost her husband, and shortly thereafter, she started engaging in gossip, I am sure people would start confronting her. Her pastor would then bring her in, and discuss her reasons for continuously committing this sin. If she tells him that her sin is directly related to the death of her husband, then, very clearly, you would have a direct application of Paul's command. In such a situation, he should tell her to remarry so that she does not give the enemy an occasion for reproach.

    I never said otherwise. However, there are certain things that are so serious that they can do tons of damage to another person. I have seen it; there are many people I have met who are hardened against marriage and the opposite sex because they married someone who was addicted to something, was abusive or controlling, etc. Unlike your post says, marriage did not cause these folks to deal with sin issues that they formerly ignored when single. Their self-centeredness ended up ruining the marriage, and hurting other people along the way.

    In other words, I would say that the only factor in growth in grace is the work of Christ on the cross, and the work of the Holy Spirit. Certainly I believe God can use another person like a spouse, but I would say that necessarily connecting sanctification to marriage is very dangerous theologically. I have seen some people who take this view, and they have almost a Roman Catholic sacramental view of marriage in the end. The reason is because, once you connect marriage necessarily to sanctification, now you have to argue that a person would not be sanctified without marriage. The problem is that the completion of the work of sanctification in our lives is made inevitable by the death of Christ on the cross, and is independent of whether or not we marry. Thus, it deeply concerns me when I hear people start talking this way.

    Not only that, but I can point to plenty of immature married people. Again, I don't really now that marital status is the issue in sanctification. I, again, think that it is a matter of seeking to live your life for God in all things. People who are truly devoted to God will mature every bit as fast as a married person who is devoted. It all, again, goes back to the heart.


    What text are you referring to? I agree that it is a greater significance, in the sense that one will affect your life more, but I don't see any evidence whatsoever that the scriptures give any *moral* significance to whether a virgin remains single or gets married. In a moral and ethical sense, whether one chooses to get married is very much like whether to choose margherita or pepperoni.

    BTW, thanks all of you for this discussion. It is actually nice to be able to discuss this issue with someone without people engaging in name calling.

    God Bless,
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page