Suffering Gets the Goat of the Marriage Mandators
I know some of you have complained that Captain Sensible is not someone people take seriously, and that she is nothing but a bully, and, to both, I would agree. However, I have recently been fowarded some information about this woman showing that, while many people may not take her seriously, and she may be a bully, she has a position of influence in the Christian church over in England. I cannot tell what it is because I have been sworn to secrecy. Hence, for the sake of our single brothers over in England, we need to continue to give them a response to this woman so that they will be able to combat the arguments written on her blog.
Anyway, my recent post on suffering got a real stir out of these folks. I was very thankful to Ted Slater for his appriciative comments. I am finding Ted and Boundless to be the most fair of anyone who discusses this issue. It has been hard, in this discussion, to keep your cool. I learned the first time that I dialogued with Debbie Maken last year that, when someone responds to you in an arrogant and nasty way, it is hard not to respond back in an arrogant and nasty way. I have gotten a whole lot of hate mail from these folks too [although, thankfully, I have not gotten any recently]! Anyway, I have found that, if you are not careful, you can let it become a sore spot, and you think that anytime someone makes an argument, they are attacking you in an arrogant and condecending way. I have tried to avoid doing this, but I had Dr. Averbeck tell me that he thinks that I haven't succeeded, and also, Ted Slater has told me that he thinks I have not succeeded. Hence, I just wanted to clear this up before I go on to something else. I think that we need to be careful that we do not lower ourselves down to these people's level when we speak about this issue.
Anyway, even though Ted may find this hard to believe, I do support Boundless on many issues. I have defended them on feminism, abortion, atheism, homosexuality, and a whole host of other topics. Hence, I am not "anti-Boundless" by any stretch of the imagination. I just happen to have a disagreement with them on this topic. However, what is interesting is that, from reading Ted's comments and my comments both on my blog and on the Boundless blog, it appears that we are getting closer in terms of our perspective, and, as I said, I look foward to continuing the conversation. I think we need to make a clear cut distinction between the nasty and arrogant radicals like Debbie Maken and Captain Sensible, and Focus on the Family and Boundless. They are by no means the same.
Now that I have commented on the people who have given my post a positive review, let me comment on the folks that that have not done so, namely, Debbie Maken and Captain Sensible. First of all, Captain Sensible seems to think, for some reason, that I said singleness was a gift because it causes suffering. I never ever said singleness is a gift because it causes suffering. What I said was that, even if one wants to argue that singleness can cause suffering, that still does not mean it cannot be a gift. Of course, Captain Sensible, because she believes that all singleness causes suffering, read it in this way. It is an important clarification mostly because it illustrates a major difference between us. There are many men on the internet with whom I have dialogued who are single and like it, and have no intention of dating or getting married. In this case, I would argue that singleness causes no suffering, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with what I said.
Now, Debbie Maken has commented on this on Captain Sensible's blog. Maken argues that I am "imposing "intentions" onto God that simply are not there." Ummm, did Debbie even bother to listen to Pastor Shishko's discussion about the nature of suffering in the Christian life? Did she bother to listen to his argument that all suffering in our lives is to conform is to the image of Christ? Secondly, she said it is God's "explicitly revealed prescription" to be fruitful and multiply. Anyone who knows anything about the issues I went through with Captain Sensible knows that this is absolutely amazing. Captain Sensible and Debbie Maken were caught utterly flat footed when I pointed out that the next phrase is "fill the earth." Now, are we to say that only have fifteen kids somehow causes unnecessary suffering because it is against God's revealed will to have seven billion children so that we fill the earth? You see, Debbie cannot respond to this, even though she claims that she has, she has not. Here is what a response would look like. You would have to say something like, "Here is where there is a clear cut distinction between the first two imperatives, and the third imperative in this text, and here is why your interpretation of the covenantal usage of this phrase is a misinterpretation." When she actually starts dealing with what I say, rather than engaging in name-calling, then I will say that she has actually answered what I have said, and I will give a sound reply.
However, I want you to examine the man-centeredness behind Debbie Maken's post. She said, "Examining the 800 lb gorilla that the Pinto had a major design flaw, and eradicating same might mean less deaths and less unnecessary suffering. Would that then mean that God was not bestowing the gift of accidental death as much?" Notice, from Maken's perspective, what happens in this world is a result of what man does. Man determines his own destiny. In simple response to Debbie Maken we need to point out that it was impossible for there to not be unnecessary suffering. It was impossible for this company to have examined the Pinto more carefully. Why? Because God had ordained both that that these tragedies would happen, and he also ordained the means whereby they would happen [i.e. the carelessness of the workers]. You see, from Maken's perspective, everything that happens in this world is the result of man. She has a very man-centered view of suffering.
Also, notice Debbie Maken's closing statement of her post:
There is nothing glorious about interminable singleness that many Western Christians endure, and this endless search for that glorious rationalization would produce better fruit if we actually searched for ways to reform dating.
In other words, she tells us that she accepts, presuppositionally, that there can be nothing glorious about wanting a spouse and not being able to find one. This is where I think Pastor Shishko's discussion in the first hour becomes extremely important. He told us that, one of the major ways our culture does not have a Godward focus in our suffering is that we think that we have a right to comfort. Interestingly enough, this seems to be largely a female problem. I remember talking to one girl who had just accused a man of sexual harrassment, and she simply said that, the reason she accused him was because he was making her feel uncomfortable. She never mentioned anything that he did that was wrong. It was just the fact that it made her feel uncomfortable. Let me say this very calmly and plainly. God doesn't care one iota about your comfort. If you have this view of God that your comfort is the most important thing, especially in the realm of singleness and marriage, then you need to repent, and put God back on the throne. God doesn't care about your comfort. He cares about conforming you to the image of his son. And is this not what should be most important to the Christian?
I would encourage any of you to read the letters of Samuel Rutherford, and listen to that lecture series by Pastor Shishko. The fact that so many of these folks refuse to deal with it means that we have hit on something very important. I would also recommend, a very good article recently published by Boundless makes this one final excellent point. I will close with this, as it is excellent food for thought:
If I lose a job I reflexively ask, "What is God teaching me?" If my elderly parents need care I ask, "How is God using this in my life?" If a child is in an automobile accident I want to know, "What is God teaching our family?"
And the Bible encourages us to ask those questions. Hebrews 12:7-8, James 1:2-4, and other texts tell us that God uses our suffering to discipline us. God's discipline then brings about our full salvation which includes holiness. That is, suffering is redemptive in our lives.
Indeed, if we have more people following this advice, it may be that Debbie Maken's movement would not seem attractive to anyone.