Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Courtship Controversy
Part II
Is Intimacy Inappropriate Before Marriage?

I will be reviewing another Boundless article found here. This is actually a section from a larger book called Sex and the Supremacy of Christ. This article addresses what courtship advocates believe is the heart of their position. Joshua Harris always responds this way when asked what the central thesis of his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye is. The article is by an attorney named Scott Croft who wrote and teaches a Dating-Courtship core seminar for Capital Hill Baptist Church where he is also an elder.

Mr. Croft begins his article by stating that there are many opinions on both dating and courtship, and that he takes the courtship route as outlined by Joshua Harris. Mr. Croft begins by giving his definition of Courtship:

Let's begin by defining courtship. Courtship ordinarily begins when a single man approaches a single woman by going through the woman's father, and then conducts his relationship with the woman under the authority of her father, family, or church, whichever is most appropriate. Courtship always has marriage as its direct goal.

Of course, we are going to see that there are a whole lot of things that Mr. Croft is not telling us in this definition that will become more apparent as we go through the article. However, where he falls down badly is when he tries to give a definition of dating:

What then is dating? Dating, a more modern approach, begins when either the man or the woman initiates a more- than-friends relationship with the other, and then they conduct that relationship outside of any oversight or authority. Dating may or may not have marriage as its goal.

Mr. Croft does not site any sources. He does not tell us which authors define dating in this way. In fact, I have been very suprised at how much dating advocates admonish young people to seek help from their parents and friends when they date. So, Mr. Croft is simply mistaken in his definition of dating, as he is erecting a strawman from the beginning. In the last sentence, when he says "Dating may or may not have marriage as its goal," he appears to be admitting that there is a form of dating that believes that you should only date people you are interested in marrying, and you should pursue that relationship all the way to marriage. I think what he means to say is that, for dating to be dating, it is not necessary to have marriage as its goal. However, we could also say that, since many courtship advocates are willing to throw me into the pits of hell because I am a dating advocate, "Courtship may not have the belief that we should treat Christians with opposing viewpoints on this issue as brothers in Christ as one of its essential beliefs." Does that somehow cast any doubt on Courtship? The problem is that just because someone does something wrong while executing a system does not mean that there is something inherintly wrong with the system.

Mr. Croft continues:

Modern dating, on the other hand, need not have marriage as a goal at all. Dating can be recreational. Not only is "dating for fun" acceptable, it is assumed that "practice" and learning by "trial and error" are necessary, even advisable, before finding the person that is just right for you. The fact that individuals will be emotionally and probably physically intimate with many people before settling down with the "right person" is just part of the deal. Yet where is the biblical support for such an approach to marriage? There is none. How many examples of "recreational dating" do we see among God's people in the Bible? Zero. The category of premarital intimacy does not exist, other than in the context of grievous sexual sin.

We note, again, the strawman argument that Mr. Croft has brought up. As far as "trial and error," that would depend upon what Mr. Croft means. First of all, we do need to recognize that there are many people today who jump from person to person and they do not care about the people they date. A person who is a true biblical dating advocate would never say that this is acceptible. You do everything you can to end up married to the person you are dating. However, if for some reason you are forced to break up, then there is not Biblical mandate against this, and I would challange Mr. Croft to find one.

Of course, Mr. Croft also needs to explain what he means when he uses the phrase "physically intimate." If he means that when people date, they are going to hold each other, kiss, and hold hands, then he needs to say so. However, the ambiguity here means that someone could easily read it to mean that dating advocates believe premarital sexual relations are acceptible, which we do not.

As far as the Biblical support, there is no support for dating or courtship. Both came along much later and much further down the line, and hence, neither have Biblical support. However, Mr. Croft is wrong to say that premarital [spiritual] intimacy does not exist in the Bible. What do we do with Jesus and the women at the cross? Why is it that Jesus is spending his last breath with these four women? At the time in your life when the people with whom you are the most intimate are supposed to be at your side, we find four women, one of whom was Jesus' mother, and the other three were women to whom Jesus was not married. Hence, if Mr. Croft wants to argue that premarital [spiritual] intimacy is sexual sin, he can give up the sinlessness of Christ.

Worse than that, the Bible does not speak of premarital [spiritual] intimacy as sexual sin. The idea that this is somehow sexual sin is something that courtship advocates have to read into the text rather than drawing it from the text.

The motive for dating or courting is marriage. The practical advice I give the singles at our church is, if you cannot happily see yourself as a married man (or woman) in less than one year, then you are not ready to date.

Wow, talk about something with absolutely, positively, no Biblical support. Notice, this position is starting to seem really arbitrary. Perhaps someone could say that one year is too long. Perhaps someone could say that you must be able to see yourself happily married 6 months? One Month? One week? One day? This is totally arbitrary, and it is left up to Mr. Croft to decide what is the appropriate time that makes dating have "a goal of marriage." I would say that the time does not matter. What matters is if you are growing both in your relationship to God, and in your relationship to the other person.

The second major difference between biblical courtship and modern dating is the mind-set couples have when interacting with one another. What do I mean by that? Modern dating is essentially a selfish endeavor. I do not mean maliciously selfish, as in "I'm going to try to hurt you for my benefit." I mean an oblivious self-centeredness that treats the whole process as ultimately about me. After all, what is the main question everyone asks about dating, falling in love, and getting married? "How do I know if I've found the one?" What is the unspoken ending to that question? "For me." Will this person make me happy? Will this relationship meet my needs? How does she look? What is the chemistry like? Have I done as well as I can do?

Here, Mr. Croft states that it is inherently wrong to say you have found the one, because there is an assumed "for me." However, is that true? What if we finish the statement "How do I know if I've found the one God has been pleased in his soverignty to give me for marriage?" Where is the selfishness in that statement? Far from being selfish, it depends upon the lordship of Christ to bring the woman into your life that he wants you to marry.

Second, Mr. Croft, assumes that if you desire something for yourself, then you are selfish. We are, as Christians, to desire purity. Does that make us selfish? We are to desire to know Christ more and more intimately. Does that somehow make us selfish? I might desire a new Tin Whistle, and tickets to go see the Cottars in concert. Does that make me selfish? I might also desire to have the complete works of B.B. Warfield. Does that make me selfish? It is simply an error to define wanting a list of things for yourself as selfish.

Now, indeed, if those were the only things you looked for in a relationship, then you would indeed be selfish. If what you want becomes ultimate, then you have, indeed, become selfish. However, we need to make a distinction between this, and the idea of desiring something in a relationship. We need to remember that, while we may have wants in a relationship, those wants are secondary to meeting the other persons needs, and loving them with all of our heart. If we cannot have the things Mr. Croft mentioned on his list, then we need to be willing to sacrifice them for the other person. In fact, God himself said that the attraction between man and woman was "very good" [Genesis 2:23 compared with 1:31]. So if Mr. Croft is saying that it is selfish to desire a woman to whom we are attracted, then he is saying that it is selfish to desire something God has called "very good."

Selfishness is not what drives a biblical marriage, and therefore should not be what drives a biblical courtship. Biblical courtship recognizes the general call to "do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves" (Phil. 2:3, NIV). It also recognizes the specific call that Ephesians 5:25 gives men in marriage, where our main role is sacrificial service. We are to love our wives as Christ loved the church, giving himself up for her. That means loving sacrificially every day. Biblical courtship means that a man does not look for a laundry list of characteristics that comprise his fantasy woman so that his every desire can be fulfilled, but he looks for a godly woman as Scripture defines her — a woman he can love and, yes, be attracted to, but a woman whom he can serve and love as a godly husband.

As we have seen, Mr. Croft does not know what selfishness is, so, he is simply repeating the previous error. However, can Mr. Croft show any Biblical passage that says that it is wrong to have a list of characteristics that would define someone ideal for you? The problem is if you look for the fulfillment of your desires as primary. That is, if you look at this list as a sine quon non of a person you want to marry. I think that, in the last sentence, Mr. Croft is at least admitting that having a list of desires, and desiring a woman to fill those desires is not wrong so long as it is not the primary thing for which you are looking.

In other words, modern dating asks, "How can I find the one for me?" while biblical courtship asks, "How can I be the one for her?"

Again, we have to wonder where Mr. Croft is getting his definition of dating. Modern dating says "how can I find the one God has ordained that I should marry, and how can I be the one for her." I again must assert that Mr. Croft does not know what dating is, and is simply erecting a strawman at this point.

Third, and most practically, modern dating and biblical courtship are different in their methods. And this is where the rubber really meets the road. In modern dating, intimacy precedes commitment. In biblical courtship, commitment precedes intimacy.

Now, I am going to have to define terms here. For the courtship advocate, when they speak of commitment, they mean marital commitment. What they are saying is that you cannot have intimacy without a marital commitment.

This, of course, would make nonsense out of our language. For instance, there would be something toutological in the statement "this is a commited marriage," and there would be something inherently incoherent about the statement "this is a commited boyfriend."

Also, for the courtship advocate, intimacy cannot occur outside of marriage. However, we must be careful to define terms. The Bible calls upon us to love the brothren, and hence, the must be intimacy before marriage. Courtship has a way of dealing with this, though. They make a distinction between appropriate and inappropriate intimacy. However, the astute student of philosophy will realize that this still has not answered the question as now we need to ask how we distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate intimacy. The Bible doesn't speak in this fashion. So, how are we going to define what is appropriate, and what is not appropriate intimacy? This becomes totally arbitrary. In essence the courtship advocate must engage in a long version of circular reasoning, begging the question. This comes out quite clearly in Mr. Croft's next statement:

According to the current school of thought, the best way to figure out whether you want to marry a particular person is to act as if you are married and see if you like it. Spend large amounts of time alone together. Become each other's primary emotional confidantes. Share your deepest secrets and desires. Get to know that person better than anyone else in your life. Grow your physical intimacy and intensity on the same track as your emotional intimacy. What you do and say together is private and is no one else's business, and since the relationship is private, you need not submit to anyone else's authority or be accountable. And if this pseudo-marriage works for both of you, then get married. But if one or both of you do not like how it is going, go ahead and break up even if it means going through something like an emotional and probably physical divorce.

Several things need to be said in response. First, as far as "growing" in "physical" intimacy, it is hard to know what Mr. Croft is saying. When it comes to the physical actions a man is not able to do outside of marriage, the Bible is perfectly clear, and no dating advocate denies that. Second, the idea that we do not submit to authority is a complete and total misrepresentation, and Mr. Croft needs to either cite a Christian author who says that, or remove it from his article.

Second, we also need to point out the inherent circularity of his position. Spending large amounts of time together, becoming each other's primary emotional confidants, sharing your deepest, darkest secrets, and desires, and getting to know that person better than anyone else in your life are all assumed to be inherently marital in character. However, Mr. Croft has not proven this. You won't find it in the Bible, and there is certainly no logical reason to assume that these are uniquely marital.

Such is the process of finding "the one," and this can happen with several different people before one finally marries. In the self-centered world of secular dating, we want as much information as possible to ensure that the right decision is being made. And if we can enjoy a little physical or emotional comfort along the way, great.
Clearly, this is not the biblical picture. The process just described is hurtful to the woman that the man purports to care about, not to mention to himself. And it clearly violates the command of
1 Thessalonians 4:6 not to wrong or defraud our sisters in Christ by implying a marriage-level commitment where one does not exist. It will have a damaging effect on the man's marriage and hers, whether they marry each other or not.

Again, we see total circularity on the part of courtship advocate who is despirately trying to support his position from scripture. He does not show how finding out deep information about someone is sinful before marriage. He does not show how it is hurtful, nor can he. He does not show how it has a damaging effect on each other's marriage, nor can he. Sin is an issue of the heart, not an issue of process, unless one can show that the process is wrong from the Bible.

When Mr. Croft tries to do that, he gives us a perfect example of how incredibly disconnected Courtship is from any meaningful exegesis of the Biblical text. Notice what he says:

And it clearly violates the command of 1 Thessalonians 4:6 not to wrong or defraud our sisters in Christ by implying a marriage-level commitment where one does not exist.

Let me post the entirety of this passage starting back at verse 1 and ending at verse 7:

1 Thessalonians 4:1-7 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. 2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.

We see then how utterly disconnected from the text any idea of "marriage level commitment." Aside from the question begging in saying that there is a commitment that is uniquely "marriage level," we also must point out that the text is talking about unlawful sexual intercourse. The specific Greek word porneia is used in verse 3, and "lustful passion" is specifically mentioned in verse 5. Not only that, but the specific defrauding that is forbidden in this passage has to do with "the matter [unlawful sexual intercourse]," and not commitment. From the opening of his article, Mr. Croft might want to argue that this falls under the category of sexual sin as described in this passage. If that is the case, then he bears the burden of proof to show that the Greek term porneia, and the other words used in this passage mean that when there is not a Greek lexicon on God's blue earth that gives that as a definition for any of these words. This is simply a desparate attempt to find some support for a position that is just not Biblical.

Not only that, but if there is nothing uniquely "marriage level" about the things Mr. Croft has listed, then his whole argument falls apart. Mr. Croft has merely assumed that these are "marriage level commitments," but has not proven so. In that case, even if the Bible does say defrauding someone is wrong [which it does in many places], Mr. Croft must first demonstrate from the Bible that these things are inherently "marriage level."

In Biblical relationship, commitment precedes intimacy. Within this model, the man should follow the admonition in 1 Timothy 5:1-2 to treat all young women to whom he is not married as sisters, with absolute purity. The man should show leadership and willingness to bear the risk of rejection by defining the nature and the pace of the relationship. He should do this before spending significant time alone with her in order to avoid hurting or confusing her.

Of course, Mr. Croft has not shown this from the Bible, he just keeps begging the question. Notice that, again, Mr. Croft just assumes that there is something inherently impure about intimacy before marriage. Where does he prove that?

He should also seek to ensure that a significant amount of time is spent with other couples or friends rather than alone. The topics, manner, and frequency of conversations should be characterized by the desire to become acquainted with each other more deeply, but not in a way that defrauds each other. There should be no physical intimacy outside the context of marriage, and the couple should seek accountability for the spiritual health and progress of the relationship, as well as for their physical and emotional intimacy.

Several assumptions here. Again, we see the unproven assertion that premarital intimacy somehow "defrauds" people, simply his own pontification. As far as physical intimacy, I would point out that it only gets worse when you try to defend the idea that one should not kiss or hold hands before marriage. The Bible nowhere teaches this, and all one needs to do is open up D.A. Carson's book on Exegetical Fallacies, and you will see many exegetical fallicies from those who have tried to find Biblical support. I will deal with this in my next article.

Within this model, both parties should seek to find out, before God, whether they should be married, and whether they can service and honor God better together than apart. The man should take care not to treat any woman like his wife who is not his wife. Of course he must get to know his courting partner well enough to make a decision on marriage. However, prior to the decision to marry, he should always engage with her emotionally in a way he would be happy for other men to engage with her.

Again, Mr. Croft has just given us more of his ipse dixit. He cannot defend the idea that being emotionally intimate with a woman is inherently maritial. He also tacks on the idea that we should not engage someone emotionally in a way he would not be happy for other men to engage her. Again, he simply fails to prove this.

As I said, the courtship argument is, at this point, nothing but one long circular argument. Once you say that there is such a thing as appropriate and inappropriate intimacy, you then have to have a statement of ethics so we know what is appropriate, and what is inappropriate intimacy. Since the scriptures do not address the issue, courtship advocates have to make it up themselves, and they are left with one long circular argument...It is just a longer version of a circular argument. They have to go through more steps before they end up begging the question, but beg the question they do. Greg Bahnsen once said that John Frame told him that if you make the circle big enough, you can deceive yourself into thinking it isn't a circle. But it is, and it is just as fallacious as the simple:

Emotional intimacy is wrong before marriage.
Therefore, emotional intimacy is wrong before marriage.

We do need to be careful of making hasty generalizations. Just because we have shown that it is not inherently wrong or marital to have emotional intimacy does not mean it is always right to have emotional intimacy. For instance, there is nothing wrong with eating a candy bar...unless that is the 57th candy bar you have eaten today. For instance, the Bible explicitly forbids this kind of close relationship with an unbeliever. It also makes it a rule that, if you are married, you are to have a special love for your spouse. However, in each instance, notice how we are finding Biblical support for what we say. However, to limit this kind of close spiritual relationship between a man and a woman is to add a command to the text of scripture that God has not given.

Keep in mind, I have not even began to critique Mr. Croft's position yet. I have simply pointed out how he cannot even state his own position without engaging in very serious question begging.

Here are some very serious problems with Mr. Crofts position. He first of all takes the idea that marriage must be so unique, that anything having the characteristics of marriage before marriage is inherently sinful. By that logic, courtship would be wrong since marriage is a relationship just as courtship is a relationship. Therefore, since courtship has something marriage does, therefore, courtship is wrong.

Remember what I said in my first article. My thesis is that courtship is inherently idolatrious. Not only do we see in Mr. Croft's position the attempt to make marriage totally unique is a strong parallel to the uniqueness of God himself, but we must also notice that the morality of marriage is defining the morality for everyone else. Marriage has become definitional of morality. Again, we see that courtship is making a strong parallel to God himself in marriage.

All of these things and more find us right back at another criticism I must make, and that is that courtship cannot defend its position from scripture. Anyone reading the text of scripture, and expecially the text Mr. Croft brings up without ever reading any books on this topic would never come to this conclusion. Courtship is extremely artificial from an exegetical perspective, and we will show that in our next article.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Courtship Controversy
Part I
Is it Sinful to Delay Marriage?

I would like to begin a series of articles examining the claims of modern courtship advocates. I would like to begin by reviewing an article by Candice Watters found here. While it is not directly related to courtship, it gives us a glimpse into how courtship advocates think.

The controversy to which this article refers is a controversy over the delay of marriage. How there could be a controversy over such a subject, most Christians would be left scratching their heads. There is certainly no scriptural evidence that it is wrong to delay marriage. However, Dr. Albert Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has been pushing this idea, and many people will just take Dr. Mohler's word for it because he has done such a good job in so many other areas.

However, if we are going to be Christians we are going to have to be critically minded, and that includes being critically minded of even folks like Albert Mohler. It always seems like, when it comes to this issue, the lexicons go shut, the Greek and Hebrew grammar books get thrown in the trash, and the philosophy and logic textbooks are sold back to the college bookstore. One has to wonder why that is.

Let me first of all say that there are some arguments against the idea that delaying marriage is sin that are really bad. For instance, the idea that you will not have as much "fun" if you remain single, and the idea that all men are jerks. These are really bad, and indeed, selfish reasons to not get married. First of all, yes, marriage is work. However, there are also many benifits as well as responsibilities that to write it off without weighing each one is simply rediculious. Second, the idea that all men are jerks comes from the feminists who think that all men are trying to destroy them. So, when Mrs. Watters is refuting these people, I'm cheering her on!

However, I think the single strongest argument against her viewpoint has not been given a fair hearing. It is one of the most precious truths in all of scripture, namely, that Christ is sufficient center of our lives. Mrs. Watters states the position in this way:

The top complaint from singles that want to get married but haven't yet had the opportunity has a spiritual bent. It goes something like this: The single years are more virtuous than the married ones, characterized by more faithful, focused and selfless living for the Kingdom. Christ is the sum total of what fulfills us -- to suggest that marriage can, or should fulfill us, is to devalue the role of Christ in our lives. Simply put: all we need is Jesus.

It is the idea that Christ is sufficient, and hence, if marriage never happens, we can lean on him and his sufficiency. This presents a crutial problem. In fact, it is funny that Joshua Harris, who is another courtship advocate, originally would have agreed with me on this position. He has an entire chapter in his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye in which he tries to argue that singleness is a gift from God. It is really odd that courtship advocates are now saying that singleness is something that is sinful if prolonged!

Mrs. Watters begins her critique of this position by saying:

The response to this could be an article in itself, because this belief seems to be an emerging motto of Christian singles everywhere. There's just one problem: Adam had perfect communion with God in the Garden of Eden and still God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him" (Genesis 2:18) Everything else about Eden was said to be "good" by God. Everything, that is, except a man. Alone.

Of course, the problem is that Mrs. Watters has moved from "not good" to "insufficient." Her argument is hanging on the idea that this is an essential inadequacy. However, is that what the text is saying? Absolutely not! Here is the text:

Genesis 2:18 Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone [ləbadô] I will make him a helper suitable for him [‛ēzer kənegdô]." [NASB]

Here, context plays a big role. The Hebrew term ləbadô can either refer to social solitude or it can be used of referential solitude.

The first example of this is used in 1 Kings 11:29:

1 Kings 11:29 It came about at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had clothed himself with a new cloak; and both of them were alone in the field.

An example of the second usage would be in Psalm 51:4:

Psalm 51:4 Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge.

So, what is it being used as here? Well, the problem is that the English here is sorta hiding the Hebrew.

For all of those trained in Hebrew, the text here is using a qal infinitive construct of hāyâ functioning nominally [See Waltke-O'Connor An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax §36.2.1] Hence, "being" is therefore the subject of the sentence.

The bottom line for all of those who do not know Hebrew is that the translation of the text is much more literally rendered: "The being of the man alone is not good" [Waltke-O'Connor §36.2.1]. Hence, what is being equated here is the "not good" and "the man's being alone." Now, here is an interesting observation. He cannot be singled out referentially because there are certainly many other things with being at this time-plants, birds, trees, etc. So, what does the phrase then mean?

The answer then comes in the next phrase "I will make him a helper suitable for him." The Hebrew phrase ‛ēzer kənegdô is not one of the easiest phrases to translate in the Bible. However, most translations render it just as the NASB has. The term ‛ēzer has the idea both of assistance, but also of giving intervening aide such as military aide [see the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament]. However, one thing is for certain, the term is social in character..

Hence, we see an important point that Mrs. Watters has missed. That is that the deficiency of man's lonliness is social in nature not essential in nature. O. Palmer Robertson, Professor of Old Testament at Knox Theological Seminary, summarizes this very point by saying:

This lack in the man os originally created did not refer to any deficiency in his essence which made him something less than being fully in God's image. Instead it referred to an incompleteness with respect to his function as a social creature [The Genesis of Sex pgs. 127-128].

Now, the question we have to ask ourselves is whether God will always take away our social deficiencies. The answer is, of course, no. For instance, a guy who has a crush on a girl may be shy, but God is not going to come down and take away the social deficiency of shyness just so he will go up and talk to that girl. What if God wanted us to learn to trust him more, and hence, ordains that we don't get married until we are in our thirties?

Furthermore, from a New Testament perspective, this would create a problem as to the gift of singleness [1 Corithians 7:7]. Mrs. Watters has an answer for that, though:

People who claim that Jesus is enough typically quote 1 Corinthians 7. In it Paul says, "It is good for a man not to marry" and "an unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit." Paul is describing celibate service -- a calling God places on a select few men and women. Though Paul does say, "I wish that all men were as I am," he goes on to say, "But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that." The gift Paul is describing is celibacy -- a gift that equips a person to not "burn with passion" while enabling them to fully expend themselves in God's service without the distractions of spouse and children.
How do you know if you have this gift? Dr. Albert Mohler , president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and member of Focus' board of directors suggests asking yourself, "can I go the rest of my life without sex, without the companionship of marriage, without having children and without being bitter about it?" If you answer yes, it's likely you do.

The problem is that Albert Mohler is not an exegete. He is a theologian, and as such, is probably not aware of the extensive research that has been done on this passage. Let us look at the text more carefully:

1 Corinthians 7:7-9 Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner [ho men houtōs], and another in that [ho de houtōs]. 8 But I say to the unmarried [agamois] and to widows [chērais] that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Verse 7 is very clear as Paul mentions his state and then says that, on the other hand, one has his gift in one way and the other in that using a construction. This is not in dispute. However, what I wish to dispute is the nature of that gift, and the idea that how we know if we have this gift or not is whether or not we are burning with passion. What Dr. Mohler has missed in verse 8 is that there is a masculine followed by a feminine gender. If Dr. Mohler's interpretation is correct, we have a real odd structure in the text as virgins are the only ones addressed more than once. Worse than that, is that Dr. Mohler's interpretation would make Paul a Pharisee who was trained as a scribe, and yet still a virgin. This is utter historical nonsense. Given these two facts, he would have been expected to marry as the Jews did not believe in a gift of celebacy, and only allowed celebacy as an extremely rare occurance [See Gregory Lockwood's commentary on 1 Corinthians].

So, how do we reconcile this problem? I want to suggest as Craig Blomberg [in his commentary on 1 Corinthians], Gregory Lockwood, and others have, that the text of verse 8 should actually be translated "But I say to the widowers and to widows..." In defense of this translation, we might point out that the masculine counterpart to chērais [chērois] is falling out of usage during the first century. In fact, when I did a search on Thesaurus Linguae Gracae I could find no clear instances of chēros in the first century AD. This is why we can say, at very least, that the term is falling out of usage. And, on top of that, agamos is also used to refer to someone who was once married in verse 11.

Hence, Paul is not talking about a gift of celebacy, but a gift of singleness because Paul had been married [and apparently widowered] before the writing of 1 Corinthians. What Paul is saying is that those who have lost their spouse will know whether or not they have the gift of singleness if they still desire the passion they had when they were married. The text about "burning with passion," in other words, is not addressing single people per se, but a specific group of single people, widows and widowers, which also makes it impossible to argue that the gift in verse 7 is celebacy.

Now, we have responded to Mrs. Watter's attempts to find scriptural support for her belief that delaying marriage is a sin. However, if we stopped here without making one critical observation, we would not be able to understand the nature of the thinking of courtship advocates. Do you remember what she said in the beginning of her article?:

Christ is the sum total of what fulfills us -- to suggest that marriage can, or should fulfill us, is to devalue the role of Christ in our lives. Simply put: all we need is Jesus.
The response to this could be an article in itself, because this belief seems to be an emerging motto of Christian singles everywhere. There's just one problem: Adam had perfect communion with God in the Garden of Eden and still God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone.

One wonders why Mrs. Watters rejects the sufficiency of Christ in such a cavalier manner. Mountains of texts can be brought to defend this belief:

Psalm 27:4 One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple.

Where is marriage in this request of David?

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

"In all your ways acknowledge the Lord" or "acknowledge marriage?"

Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Notice, Paul's contentment comes, not in marriage, but in the fact that he can do all things through Christ who gives him strength! What is the reason then that courtship advocates have rejected this so viciously recently? I think it is because courtship advocates have an idolatrious view of marriage. Notice, Christ is not sufficient in our lives, we must have marriage. Therefore, marriage is treated as an idol, something that is sought thinking that your are incomplete and insufficient without it. We will show later how courtship advocates view marriage as the foundation for the uniting of Christians, and how courtship advocates even view morality as being founded in marriage.

What is really sad is that, because of this, Mrs. Watters does not even fully understand the argument against her position, because she writes:

For everyone else, the call is to marriage. To marry doesn't diminish the need for Christ. In fact, it increases it: The reason Christian marriage requires a vow is that no mere promise is enough to hold two mortals together for life. We're dependent on Christ to help us fulfill it.

The problem is that no one ever disputed that. No one ever claimed that getting married diminishes the need for Christ, and makes him insufficient. What we are claiming is that anyone who claims that delaying marrage is a sin, or who gets married because they think delaying marriage is a sin is, indeed, saying that Christ is insufficient. Why is that? Because, while marriage is not wrong, marriage is also not needed in order for a person to live their lives in obedience to Christ. The only thing needed for that is the grace of God, and the shed blood of Jesus Christ. To say that something else, such as marriage, is needed to complete someone, or to keep someone pure is pure idolatry. Marriage should be something that is complementary to a person who is already sufficiently trusting in Christ, not something which is added on so that he can now be sufficient or so that he can now be obedient.

Marriage is a wonderful institution ordained by God, and it saddens me that it is under such attack today. However, if we are going to defend it, we have to make sure that we do not end up making it an idol. We must remember that, as wonderful an institution as it is, it is still the creation, not the creator. Hence, we must guard against saying that we need marriage in order to be pure, and that marriage somehow makes us incomplete and insufficient.

In conclusion then, while I admire the desire to uphold marriage, and to consider it something singles should be thinking about, I think the position to which courtship advocates have raised marriage is idolatrious. I do want to make it clear that I think that they are still my brothers and sisters in Christ. However, I think they are hurting their defense of marriage, and most importantly, robbing singles of the joy of resting in the sufficiency of Christ, whether they marry or do not marry.