Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Responses to Candice Watters’ Book Part I

Now that I have gotten out of school for the summer, I have had more time to look at Candice Watters’ book Get Married, What Women Can Do to Help It Happen [Moody Publishers. Chicago, Illinois. 2008]. In this series, I will be responding to some of the arguments she puts forth in her book.

Now, you might be saying, “But you have already dealt with this issue at length on your blog.” Yes, I know. There are two reasons why I am doing this. First of all, Boundless has been, by far, the ones with whom I have had the most fruitful dialogue. They are not like Debbie Maken and the other cultic radicals who run around accusing the other side of lying, and getting into all kinds of personal attacks without any justification. Hence, I believe the most fruitful discussion can be found in dealing with people who are actually concerned for truth, and especially dealing with what one of their authors, especially in her published works, has to say. Also, Candice Watters has attempted to respond to some of the things I have said on my blog in this book. Although I am not mentioned by name, some things I have said, like wanting women to be careful of making marriage an idol, are addressed in the book. I will get to that as time allows.

Also, my views have changed. I have not had a whole lot of time to post about it because I have been so busy during the school year. I have had the great privilege of studying under several fabulous professors here at Trinity, and, in fact, even got a chance to take a class on interpreting the book of Genesis with Dr. Richard Averbeck. The more information that I got from studying, the more I realized that some of my views were not as accurate as they could be. Hence, while I still reject what Albert Mohler, Debbie Maken, and Candice Watters are saying, the arguments I would use against their position have changed. Thus, I hope to use this review as a means to present my new position on several of these topics.

I think that, also, Candice's book does not read as someone who is anti-male and thinks ill of anyone who would disagree with her. There is much redeeming value to this book. There are many things women can do as a means to marriage, and Candice lays some of these things out very well. While many of the ideas of Debbie Maken's book are still there, all of the anti-male vitriol is gone. She is clearly writing honestly, and thus, I believe she deserves an honest answer. With this, I begin my review of her book.

There are four texts upon which Candice seems to focus her scriptural presentation. They are Genesis 2:18, Genesis 1:28, Proverbs 18:22, and 1 Corinthians 7:2. I will address her interpretation of these passages in this part of my review.

Genesis 2:18

First of all, Candice, like Albert Mohler and Debbie Maken before her, uses Genesis 2:18 to support her position. The text reads:

Genesis 2:18 Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him."

On pages 21-22 of her book, Candice says:

Still, God looked down on Adam and said something out of synch with everything else He had said about His creation. At the end of each day of creation, “God saw that it was good.” But about Adam, God said, “It is not good.” What wasn’t good? Genesis 2:18a tells us, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.’”

What did God meant [sic] by “not good”? Del Tackett, president of the Focus on the Family Institute, explains it wasn’t a qualitative statement-as if God created a three-legged dog and said, “This is not good.” He says it was an ethical statement of badness, as in “man should not be alone.” Why was it not good for man to be alone? Because Adam was created in God’s image. He was made to reflect God in every aspect of his existence. From all eternity God was in perfect relationship within the Trinity as Father Son, and Holy Spirit. For Adam to accurately reflect being made in the image of God, he could not remain alone; he had to be in relationship. Adam alone contradicted God’s nature.

I have provided an extended quotation here to make certain that I am not misrepresented Candice. Notice, Candice says that the phrase “not good” is describing Adam, and goes on to equate Adam’s aloneness as applying to his very nature as created in the image of God. Debbie Maken and others do this as well. The idea is that there is something wrong with a man who is alone such that it leads to pornography addictions, irresponsibility, and just plain immature behavior. For women, it is said that it can often lead to depression. I don’t know if Candice would want to go that far, but the point here is that Candice seems to be saying that there is something inherently wrong with the man himself because he was alone. This is the first problem I see with her interpretation.

In actuality, the Hebrew text is clearly constructed in such a way so as to avoid this conclusion. This is something Dr. Averbeck pointed out to me. He asked me to take a careful look at the text, and wow, what a careful second look at a text will do!!!!!!!! First of all, in order to understand what is going on in this text, I will have to explain what a “gerund” is. A gerund is the usage of a verb as a noun. Gerunds can be recognized in that they will usually have an –ing ending. Here is an example: “Running is good for your health.” Let us ask ourselves. What is the subject of that sentence? It is most clearly “running.” However, “running” is a verb! This is an example of a gerund since it is clear that a verb is used as a noun. There is a form, in Hebrew, called the “infinitive construct” that can function in this fashion, usually as the subject of a sentence [Waltke-O’Connor p. 601; Jouon-Muraoka §124b, GKC §114a]. This is what is found in Genesis 2:18. Here is the text, in Hebrew, with and English translation following it to show you exactly how the text is constructed:

[alone] AD+b;l. [the man] ~d"Þa'h'( [the being of] tAyðh/ [(is) not good] bAj±-al{

For those who do not know Hebrew, remember that Hebrew is read from right to left. Also, this construction is kind of awkward in that the predicate is placed first [(is) not good]. This kind of a construction is usually used for emphasis. What is being emphasized is what is transferred out front, namely, the [(is) not good]

The Hebrew term tAyh/ is an infinitive construct of the Hebrew verb hy"h' which means “to be.” All of the Hebrew grammars I cited before [which, incidentally, are the most popular Hebrew grammars in print], Waltke-O’Connor, Jouon-Muraoka, and GKC, mention this passage as a clear example of this gerundive usage of the infinitive construct as the subject of the sentence. Thus, when we add an –ing to “be” we get “being.” Now, this “gerund” is in construct with the noun following it ~d"a'h' [the man] and is thus, literally, “the being of the man.” Now, I will not get into all of the parts of ADb;l as it is not relevant to the meaning of the text. Suffice it to say that the term means “alone.” Hence, when we put our translation together, we have “the being of the man alone is not good.” Indeed, this is how Bruce Waltke and Michael O’Connor translate the passage in their grammar [p.601]. Also, GKC has a similar translation, “not good is the being of man in his separation” [GKC §114a (a)].

Thus, what is not good is not the man when he is alone. The easiest way to say that in Hebrew is to leave out the tAyh/. Thus, the text would read, “The alone man is not good.” However, the tAyh/ is clearly there in the text, and thus, the text is not saying that an unmarried man is not good. What is not good is his situation of being alone. That is extremely important to recognize. That totally refutes any notion of marriage as a “need” for an individual person. Such is simply not in the text, and, by the clear usage of tAyh/, is being avoided by Moses.

The reason why this mistake is often made in relationship books is because of the fact that the English phrase “the being of the man alone is not good” is awkward English [hence, translations are not going to translate it that way], and the phrase “It is not good for the man to be alone,” while much better English, is much more ambiguous [hence, most translations will translate it this way, but it can lead to some confusion]. The phrase “It is not good for the man to be alone” can mean both “the being of the man alone is not good,” and “the man alone is not good.”

However, you might be saying, “However, doesn’t that leave you with saying that singleness is “not good?” This is something Candice, though following her old line of thinking, takes advantage of, in responding to the common interpretation of this phrase that the word “alone” here simply refers to “community:”

And so God said, “I will make a helper suitable for him.” The story continues. “So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a singles group, and he brought it to the man to alleviate his lonliness.”

Of course, that’s not what the text says. Why is it then that I so often hear this Scripture used to explain our need for just about every kind of relational structure except marriage? While it’s true that God goes on to create other social structures to meet certain human needs (such as civil government and the church), He started with marriage. His specific and immediate solution for Adam’s problem was a wife [p.22].

Candice’s logic is very clear. She might say to us:

  1. Adam’s situation of singleness is not good.
  2. God solved the situation by bringing him a spouse.
  3. Therefore, we should go out and find a spouse, and it will solve our situational problem of singleness.

This is one of the texts on which I have changed my views. I used to hold the view that Candice attacks here, namely, that this was talking about our need for community. In fact, this was the view that was even expressed in the textbook for our class! However, Dr. Averbeck actually won me over to his position at the end of last semester.

One of the interesting things that I have found in studying at an Evangelical institution such as Trinity is that the more conservative scholars have taken the academic methodology of a man by the name of Robert Alter. Now, I need to make it clear; Robert Alter is an unbeliever. He views narratives such as Genesis as literary fiction. Thus, he is not a Christian. Because of this, I have some real concerns about Evangelical scholarship using him to try to attack Welhausen. However, one of the things that is really interesting about Alter is that he is not only a professor of Biblical Hebrew, but also a professor of literature. Thus, his work was to see if he could find any literary structures in Biblical narratives and Biblical poetry. He believes he has been successful, and his work has started an entire movement within Old Testament scholarship. The Welhausians have been fighting his movement on this ever since. I think that both Evangelicals and Welhausians have had a gross overreaction to Alter, but that is the topic for another blog post. Suffice it here to say that I believe that Alter’s major contribution to Old Testament studies is exegetical, not polemical. Since we as Christians, like Robert Alter, do view the Old Testament narratives as literary wholes, we can use what Alter has said.

Viewing the text as a literary whole is very difficult. It means you must always be reading ahead, and keeping in mind what has come before. This is why Dr. Averbeck, in our exegesis class, made the exegetical work for the text we were going to discuss in class due as well as the exegetical work for the text we were going to discuss the next class session due at the same time. While that was hard, you can see value to it in dealing with this issue. In the next chapter, Adam and Eve sin, and you, of course, have the promise of deliverance in the seed of the woman. However, there is quite the significance to the punishment of woman. Consider the following:

Genesis 3:16 To the woman he said, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."

What is interesting about this text is the allusions back to the earlier chapters in Genesis. The text starts out with “I will surely multiply.” Here, you have a regular 1cs hiphil imperfect of hb'r' which simply means “I will multiply.” However, before it, you have what is called an “infinitive absolute” [also in the hiphil stem]. This is the most common usage of the infinitive absolute, namely, using the infinitive absolute of the same verb as the main verb to emphasize the main verb [Waltke-O’Connor pgs.584-588]. Hence, most translations read, “I will surely multiply,” or, “greatly will I multiply.” This is significant because the only other places where this verb hb'r' has been used before this is in Genesis 1:22 and 1:28, where we find the commands “Be fruitful and multiply.” Both of these contexts are talking about child bearing, and both use the same verb, and hence, most scholars will accept that this is a parallel. It is interesting that, unlike Genesis 1:22 and 28, what is multiplied is not children, but the pain in having children! Hence, what this text is telling us is that because of the fall, now, one of the original blessings of creation, namely, the birthing of children has been corrupted by sin. Now, we need to make a distinction. I am not saying that having children is something that is corrupt. Having children is, indeed, something that is good. However, the giving birth to children has been corrupted by our sin. Thus, having children, though good in and of itself, has been corrupted by our sin.

That is why the next phrase is so important. “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." Most people have noticed a parallel to God’s warning to Cain in the next chapter in Genesis 4:7, “It’s [sin’s] desire is for you, but you must rule over it” [translation mine]. Some have tried to make a parallel to Songs of Songs 7:11 [Eng. 7:10], but the results have been less than convincing. Obviously, given this parallel to Genesis 4:7, we can see that the desire here is not something good. Apparently, what this text is saying is that the desire will be to conquer her husband. However, he will go on being the head of her just as creation intended. Some have suggested that the Hebrew term lv;m' indicates some kind of tyrannical rule. However, that is not likely. The term does not, in and of itself, have that connotation. For instance, it is the same term used in Genesis 1:16 where it says that God created the sun “to rule over the day.” Suffice it to say that, if this is, indeed, a tyrannical rule, one must argue for this contextually, and not lexically as the term has nothing whatsoever to do with it.

However we take the term lv;m' here, it is very clear that this text is telling us that, as punishment for sin, marriage will now have the problem of the woman’s desire to dominate the man, and there will be strife. However, what is interesting to note is that this also points us back to Genesis 2:18! The woman was created to be a “helper” for man. However, now, as a result of the fall, her desire is to usurp her husband’s authority, which is the exact opposite of being a “helper.” Hence, because of the corruption of sin, woman does not function as a helper, and thus, does not function as the solution to Adam’s situation that she once was. Hence, we can say that, not only was child bearing corrupted by sin, but also the marriage relationship itself was corrupted by sin. Now, again, we need to clarify. I am not saying that there is anything inherently corrupt with a marriage relationship, or about wives in and of themselves. Both of them, as God created them, are good. However, this text forces us to the harsh reality that the good marriage relationship has been corrupted by our sin.

The implications of this are extremely significant. I don’t know of anyone who would disagree with me that the things spoken of in this text are “not good.” Therefore, what this means is that just as it is “not good for the man to be alone,” it is also “not good for the man to marry.” In other words, part of the punishment for man is to put him in a catch-22. If he is single, his situation will be “not good.” If he is married, his situation will be “not good.”

Yes, I am well aware of the fact that we are to honor marriage, and that a wife is something that is good. There is no question about it. However, when we speak of these things, we are speaking of the inherent nature of marriage itself, not a marriage relationship that has been corrupted by sin. For instance, I like to eat sandwiches. I could easily say that sandwiches are good. However, does that mean that, if I refuse to eat a sandwich that has been dropped in a mud puddle, that, therefore, I am saying that sandwiches are not good? No, of course not. In the same way, marriage is good in and of itself, but the situation of marriage+sin is not good. What has made being married not good is something that has been added from the outside, and not something that is inherent in the institution of marriage itself.

My conclusions are not something new. In fact, here is a scholar who is willing to say that marriage and children are life’s greatest blessing. Yet, he says that, “In those moments of life’s greatest blessing-marriage and children-the woman would serve most clearly the painful consequences of her rebellion from God" [Sailhamer, J. p.56]

Likewise, C. John Collins states that, “Whereas procreation had previously been the sphere of blessing, now it is an area of pain and danger” [Collins, p.169].

About the only response I can think of to this is to say that a woman does not have to usurp her husband’s authority. She can, at times, be willing to submit to her husband either because of God’s common grace, or because she is a Christian. However, the problem with this argument is that, even though she may, at times, be willing to submit to her husband, she cannot do it all of time, and, even if she has done it once [something I would say is impossible], she has created a situation that is, “not good.” Not only that, but if a woman just simply desires to usurp the authority of her husband, but does not do so, how is that not sin? Because of this, even if she does not do it all of the time, this text describes the struggle of the believing woman, and the strife that is caused to deny her old nature that she will have throughout her life. It is this strife, coupled with the strife she will have with her husband when she actually does do it that will make being married “not good.”

Not only that, but it could be said that any sin against your husband is usurping his authority. When you do what is evil to your husband, you are showing that you do not have respect for the authority structure that God has set up above you. Because of that, you are, not only usurping God’s authority, but your husband’s authority as well. Thus, a person using this argument would have to argue that they will never sin against their husband.

I think we can see the pelagian character of this argument. If anyone is going to get out of this argument, then they are going to have to deny that the fall of Adam and Eve has any impact on their life, and on their relationship to their spouse. Thus, because of sin, I would say that it can be said from Genesis 3:16 that “It is not good for the man to marry.”

Now, here are a few other observations about this text. First of all, this text is most definitely militating against the idea that marriage is the solution to sin. Marriage has been corrupted by sin, and thus, marriage cannot save anyone from their sin. I believe that this was intentionally done to prevent Adam and Eve from looking to their relationship with each other as the salvation from their sins, and to only look to the seed of the woman that would crush the head of the serpent.

I suppose one could grant what I am saying and say, “Yes, it is true that it is not good for the man to marry, but, that doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t marry. I mean, human life itself is likewise tainted by sin. However, does that mean that we should not live the life because it will be tainted by sin?” Of course, to that I agree. However, now this argument can be turned back on its proponent. We can now say that, just because it is not good for the man to be alone, does not mean that he shouldn’t be alone. The man may decide that he prefers the struggles of singleness to the struggles of marriage.

Genesis 1:28 and the Creation Mandate

Genesis 1:28 God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

Candice Watters writes the following on pages 23-24 of her book:

Only after God created male and female does Genesis say, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” And to Adam and Eve jointly, God gives the marching orders for mankind: “God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living things that moves on the earth’” (v.28 NASB). It wasn’t just for companionship that Adam needed Eve. God had work for them to do. And for this work, Adam needed a helpmate. In a marriage that made them “one flesh,” Eve complemented Adam’s abilities and made it possible for the two of them to be fruitful, to subdue the earth, and to take dominion. Theologians call this the “creation mandate.” Dr. Morken explained that within the command for fruitfulness and dominion is the framework for everything we are called to do in our work and families. When challenged that this was only God’s way of “jump starting” the world, Dr. Morken answered boldly, “The creation mandate has never been rescinded. Never in Scripture did God say, ‘OK, I have enough people now. You can stop getting married and having babies.’”

God continues to call His people to this work in order to accomplish His purposes. In Isaiah 45, The prophet reinforces the creation mandate, writing,

Woe to him who says to his father, “What have you begotten?” or to his mother, “What have you brought to birth?” This is what the Lord says-the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands? It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heaves; I marshaled their starry hosts. For this is what the Lord says-He who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited-he says: “I am the Lord, and there is no other” Isaiah 45:10-12, 18.

Now Candice raises several issues with regards to Genesis 1:28. We should first of all deal with her interpretation of Isaiah 45 to see if it has any relevance to the “creation mandate.” It is difficult to say what Candice thinks is relevant in Isaiah 45:10-12, 18. I can only come up with two possibilities. That it is the saying to one’s father, “What have you begotten,” etc. or the statement “he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited.” She could be trying to take either possibility or both possibilities. Hence, I will have to deal with both of these as possible parallels to Genesis 1:28.

Candice’s best case for a parallel is the first one. However, even then, it is difficult contextually. Consider, first of all, the context provided by verses 5-8:

Isaiah 45:5-8 "I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; 6 That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, 7 The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these. 8 "Drip down, O heavens, from above, And let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, And righteousness spring up with it. I, the LORD, have created it.

Notice that the context is not about any kind of Creation mandate for man. Quite the contrary. The text is talking about God’s dominion, not our dominion. The text is focusing upon the sovereignty of almighty God. He is so far above us in power and authority, that he even causes well-being as well as calamity! This is the first problem with a parallel to Genesis 1:28.

Secondly, there seems to be a twofold woe in the text of which verse 10 is the second part. Here are verses 9-10, and you will see what I mean:

Isaiah 45:9-10

"Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker-- An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, 'What are you doing?' Or the thing you are making say, 'He has no hands '?

10 "Woe to him who says to a father, 'What are you begetting?' Or to a woman, 'To what are you giving birth?'"

Notice how, after asserting the sovereignty of God above man, now we have a two part woe upon the person who would quarrel with his maker, of which verse 10 is the second part. Hence, it appears that, saying to the potter “what are you doing?” or something you are making saying “he has no hands” is parallel to a infant saying to his father while he is being born “what are you begetting,” or to his mother “what are you giving birth.” Hence, no one can complain about their mother and father giving birth to them, in the same way that no one would dare complain to their creator about the way they are being formed. Hence, the text has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with any kind of mandate to “Be fruitful and multiply,” but rather, it is pointing out the silliness of an infant being born who would complain to their parents about their being born.

Now, the final attempt that could be made is to refer to verse 18, and say that the phrase “he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited” means that God created the world to be inhabited, and, therefore, we are still under obligation to inhabit it. I will point out later that, if this is understood in a covenantal fashion, I can agree with this. However, this would not be a good text to use to prove that. One might also try to use this text to say that God created every square inch of this earth to be inhabited, and thus, we need to have children until we fill every square inch. That is a gross misunderstanding of, not only this text, but also Genesis 1:28.

This text does, indeed, reference creation, but it references creation long before Adam and Eve ever came onto the scene. The Hebrew term for “empty” is Whto the same word found in the famous word pair of Genesis 1:2: Whbow" Whto “formless and void.” This will become important later on.

This is a beautiful text in that we reflect upon various aspects of the nature of God and his creation:

18. For

a. thus saith the Lord.

b. The one who created the heavens

c. He is God

d. The one who formed the earth, and made it.

e. He established it.

f. He did not create it formless.

g. He formed it to be inhabited.

h. “I am the Lord, and there is no other. [translation mine]

The beauty of this text is in the fact that this is practically all an introduction to the speech of the Lord in 18h, and yet, it is so very rich in meaning. The first section is what is called a quatrain, that is, a unit of four colons or lines of poetry. It is in the form of ABAB. Notice:

A- thus saith the Lord.

B- The one who created the heavens

A- He is God

B- The one who formed the earth, and made it.

This text is set apart by the use of substantive participles to describe the Lord. Obviously, in this text, the two A’s go together, and the two B’s go together. Thus, this text is emphasizing the fact that the God who is speaking is the very creator of the heavens and the earth. It is not just any old pagan God who is speaking, it is yhwh himself, the one who created the heavens and the earth!

The next section is a tricolon, that is, three lines of poetry, and it is pretty amazing how this text is constructed. It is in the form A-B-B’:

A- He established it.

B- He did not create it formless.

B’- He formed it to be inhabited.

Notice how the first colon connects it back to the previous quatrain, although with a totally different construction in the Hebrew. This intimately connects these colons together, and shows us that we are going to be expanding upon the theme of God as creator.

Often times in parallelism, you have a type of parallelism wherein the first sentence or phrase is somewhat ambiguous, and the second sentence or phrase clarifies the ambiguity [Berlin, 96-99]. That is what we have from the first colon to the second colon. The second colon is more specific than the first. It is not just that God created the world, he didn’t create it as the wasteland that it was in Genesis 1:2. He kept on going, and made it the beautiful creation that it is today.

Another type of parallelism is between the second and third line. In this kind of parallelism “the negative transformation is performed on a parallel (i.e. equivalent) sentence” [Berlin, 56]. Other examples of this include Proverbs 3:1 which reads:

My son, do not forget my teaching,

But let your heart keep my commandments;

Proverbs 6:20 is another example:

observe the commandment of your father

And do not forsake the teaching of your mother;

In other words, in this type of parallelism, you say something in a positive way, and then you say that same thing in a negative way. This is very important, because it means that “to be inhabited” is being paralleled with the “formless” that is alluding to Genesis 1:2. Hence, inhabited here is not talking about having so many people that you cover every square inch of the earth, or even having people on every part of the earth. It is referring to the fact that God made this a place in which human beings can live, and not the formless and void wasteland of Genesis 1:2 that is impossible for human life. Thus, even if two people inhabited the earth [as Adam and Eve did], it would fulfill this purpose. Thus, the illusion it not to the creation mandate, but every single creative action of God, in contrast to the “formless and void” of Genesis 1:2. It is not about how many humans are on the earth, but whether or not there are humans on the earth at all!

However, it seems to little to leave this at a simple response. This is all an introduction to the speech of the Lord, and yet, in this short, not even one verse introduction, we have the introduction of yhwh, the distinguishing of him as the true God from the false gods, and a statement about the goodness of yhwh, in that he takes care of his people, and gives them what they need. There is a real artist at work when you can do all of that in a simple introduction to someone’s speech! Think of how many times the introduction to the speech of the Lord is simply “thus saith the Lord.” Now, obviously, there is nothing wrong with that. However, Isaiah, being the beautiful poet that he is, has given us a much more full introduction that moves from the introduction of yhwh, to him as creator (distinguishing him from the false gods), and finally to him as a good Lord who cares for his people. That is especially important in light of the comfort the Lord gives the people of Israel in the verses that follow!

Now, let us return to Genesis 1:28. The main problem with applying this text to individuals is that you cannot read it consistently the whole way through. For instance, if [virtually] every individual is commanded to “be fruitful and multiply,” then is virtually every individual under the obligation to have seven billion children so that they “fill the earth?” Well, of course, no one is going to be willing to say that. However, if you read the first two imperatives as commands to individuals, you must do the same to the third. There is no exegetical warrant whatsoever for a changing of the person to whom the third command is given. It is the very next word in the exact same form as the first two.

The only response I can think of is someone like Albert Mohler saying that he only believes that virtually everyone must be open to having children. He could say that this would harmonize well with this third imperative, since every couple must be open to having that many children, if that were possible [which, it obviously is not]. While this certainly does harmonize well with the third imperative, it does not harmonize well with the fourth. Are we to suggest that we are only to “be open” to ruling over the fish of the sea? Such a view turns the “dominion mandate” into “dominion openness.” Again, the problem with people who take the position of Candice Watters, Debbie Maken, or Albert Mohler using this passage is that they cannot read the text consistently from beginning to end.

Now, there have been some scholars who say that this text no longer applies. I do not agree with that. However, Dr. Morken’s response does not even begin to address the issue. The dominion mandate would no longer apply if, indeed, we “filled the earth.” For instance, proponents of this view will point to passages such as Genesis 6:11 where it is said that the earth was “filled with violence.” It obviously does not mean that there was violence on every square inch of the soil of the world. Augustine is a person who held this perspective, and he said that, it was in the light of this blessing, that there were people all over the world. Now, I could agree with Augustine’s position, but the problem is that, if there are no more children, then the earth is no longer full. Hence, in order to keep the earth full, children must be a vital part of Christian society.

Of course, I would take a totally different interpretation of this passage, as I hold that, as these terms “be fruitful” [hr'p'] and “multiply” [hb'r'] are terms that are consistently used in covenant contexts throughout the Pentateuch, referring to the elect line of the book of Genesis, [Genesis 9:1, 7; 17:2, 6, 20 (spoken of Ishmael in distinction to Isaac); 28:3; 35:11; 48:4], and after this, it is used to refer to the nation of Israel [Genesis 47:27; Exodus 1:7; Leviticus 26:9]. Hence, these terms are very clearly meant to be applied to the covenant as a whole, and not to any one individual in the covenant [unless, as it was in the time of the patriarchs, there was only one individual in the covenant]. Hence, my position is that, the way in which this command is to be fulfilled today, is not by saying that almost every individual must have children, but by saying that every Christian community is under the obligation to raise up a second generation to whom we can pass along the faith. In other words, just as every church must have elders and deacons, every church must have married couples who have children, and bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord with the help of the entirety of the church community.

Thus, I would say that Dr. Morken, as well intentioned as he might be, has applied a text to individuals that simply cannot be applied to individuals. I obviously believe my interpretation fits better with the context of Genesis 1:28, and fits like a glove into my covenant theology. I think that, part of the problem is that we live in such an individualized society, that we think the solution to every problem has to do with individuals. We have even framed the statistics in this fashion, talking about how many children each individual woman needs to produce on average to increase the population. The reality is that, if as much as one third of married couples do not decide to have children, and all the couples that do decide to have children have four children, then you have enough, according to the statistics, to increase the population. Combine that with the fact that, in a lot of reformed churches, you have one family that usually has over ten! Also, combine that with the fact that, later on in life, some couples that had initially decided to not have children, my end up getting pregnant, and that also takes down the number per couple. Not only that, but with all of these children floating around, you are going to need to educate them [both on Sunday and during the week], you are going to need people to watch the children if the mother goes off to work. Add to this the fact that raising children is hard work, and you will need the wise council of other Christians for help. One can see that when the Christian community is “fruitful and multiplies,” it is a whole community effort with the leadership of the parents. That is, I believe, what this text, and the others mentioned are pointing us toward.

Something Found in Proverbs 18:22

Proverbs 18:22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing And obtains favor from the LORD.

Candice quotes this text ad infinitum ad nauseum. She also kept on italicizing the word “finds.” I was absolutely perplexed as to why it is that this was being done. Then, I came upon this on pages 63-64 of her book:

It’s one thing to tell a woman to stop looking for a husband and just trust God to bring you one, but to tell a man to stop looking for a wife is a big part of why so many singles who’d like to be married aren’t. To tell a man, “Stop looking for a wife and then she’ll appear” is like telling him to stop studying, stop looking for a job, and stop house hunting in order to get a college degree, land a job, and buy a house. Sentiments like this may be well intentioned and even sound spiritual, but they’re not Biblical. Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” To find something-or in this case, someone-requires looking. Marriage is not a thing that’s out looking for people to join. It’s a state to be pursued. Ideally the one doing the pursuing is the man.

Now, I wondered where I had heard that argument before, and, indeed I had, on a comment on my blog. I still stand by what I said on that, but with a few qualifications. First of all, to repeat what I said on that blog, it is totally fallacious to try to use one word to decide a debate. You leave yourself open to all kinds of counter examples, and refutations on the basis of grammar and context.

First of all, the idea that the Hebrew term ac'm' has, in and of itself, some idea of “looking to find” is easily refuted by just a few references to this term in the Hebrew Bible:

Proverbs 6:33 Wounds and disgrace he will find, And his reproach will not be blotted out.

Are we really to suggest that the one who commits adultery is going out looking for disgrace?

Proverbs 20:6 Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, But who can find a trustworthy man?

Is this text really meant to suggest that it is not possible to go out and actively find a trustworthy man, but that it leaves open the possibility of a trustworthy man being “stumbled upon?”

Proverbs 25:16 Have you found honey? Eat only what you need, That you not have it in excess and vomit it.

Again, the clear meaning of this proverb is that, whether we go out and look for honey, or stumble upon it in a nest by the road somewhere, we are only to eat what we need. Again, the artificial distinction found between finding and stumbling upon something takes away the punch of these proverbs.

Genesis 37:32 and they sent the varicolored tunic and brought it to their father and said, "We found this; please examine it to see whether it is your son's tunic or not."

Now, obviously, Joseph’s brothers did not mean to tell their father that they went out looking for this tunic! Remember, they are trying to hide that fact that they sold him into slavery.

Genesis 44:8 "Behold, the money which we found in the mouth of our sacks we have brought back to you from the land of Canaan. How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord's house?

This is referring to the fact that Joseph had given orders to restore their money to their sacks of grain, and, in Genesis 42:27, which describes the event to which the brothers are referring, there is a hNEhi clause used showing the great surprise of the brother at seeing his money in his sack. That is hardly someone who went looking for the money in his sack! Yet, the Hebrew term ac'm' is used here.

Now, I write all of this simply to point out that relying on the one term “find” is not only bad hermeneutics, it is also a fallacious argument as the term does not make any lexical distinction between finding by searching, or stumbling upon something. In fact, we use this kind of language in English all of the time. Let us say that a young boy goes out to the field to fly his kite, and while he is running to get the kite in the air, he trips, and when he hits the ground, he sees something shining on the ground next to his face. It turns out to be a gold coin. Now, would it be somehow wrong for this boy to tell his mom when he got home, “Look mom, I found a gold coin in the field today.” Of course not. Hence, you cannot even get this from an English translation.

However, that does not mean that Proverbs 18:22 does not imply some kind of searching. This is where I have changed my views on this text from the time I wrote the response on my blog. I had a class on poetic and prophetic book studies, and I had a little bit of time to study this. It is true that the term itself does not imply some kind of searching, but that does not mean that this kind of searching is not implied in the text. However, that must be argued from the context. A much more sophisticated argument that this is an intentional pursuit is provided by Dr. Bruce Waltke in his commentary on Proverbs [Waltke, Vol 1 p.425; Vol2 p.94]. He argues that this text has parallels to the pursuit of wisdom. For instance, consider Proverbs 8:17:

Proverbs 8:17 "I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.

Now, compare that text with Proverbs 8:35 and 18:22:

Proverbs 8:35 "For he who finds me finds life And obtains favor from the LORD.

The parallels between this text and 18:22 are obvious. The word for “find” is exactly the same, the word for “obtain” is exactly the same, and the word for “favor” is exactly the same. Not only that, but the only difference is in the forms of ac'm' and the fact that “what is good” is replaced by “life” here. However, given that they syntax of the first ac'm' in Proverbs 18:22 is awkward anyway, and given that it would be consistent that the book of Proverbs would not want to give life to everyone who is married, such differences are readily understandable.

However, we need to notice the leap in logic that is being displayed here. The problem is that the pursuit here is assumed to be something that is uniquely male. Let me ask a simple question. Where is that in this text? What if I were to define pursuing a wife as “helping marriage happen” [a concept that, as a Calvinist, I believe is totally misidentified]? Obviously, Candice would then have to say that both men and women have to do that, since the title of her book is how women can help make marriage happen. While, upon further study, I have found justification for the idea of pursuit in this passage, where the argument falls apart is in trying to make this something that is uniquely male.

Not only that, where does it say anything about how long this pursuit is to be? Perhaps the pursuit can be something as simple as telling a girl who has said that she would like to start a relationship with you that you would be interested in starting a relationship with her as well. Perhaps it is something as simple as living a life of faith as Boaz did. Either way, the assumption made throughout this book that this is something uniquely male, and somehow connected to initiation of a relationship is totally and completely unwarranted exegetically. This says nothing whatsoever about the initiation of a relationship, but only that no one can sit around and do nothing if the expect a relationship to start. Imagine if a girl says she would like to start a relationship with you, and you say nothing, and ignore her. Will a relationship happen? No, of course not. You must answer her, and this answer is the pursuit and the finding of a wife that is mentioned in this text.

Thus, I would say the emphasis on the text has to do with the goodness of the pursuit, and the goodness of a wife. What it is saying is that, when you find a wife, you have found what is good, and obtained favor from the Lord, and thus, even the pursuit of a wife is something, like the pursuit of wisdom, that is good.

I don’t want to belabor this text, but I would finally like to point out that I think, because of the fact that men are, by nature, more of the “go-getters,” then there will be more instances of men asking women out, rather than women asking men out. When this doesn’t happen, we can see that something is wrong in our society. However, that is no justification for making a blanket statement that it must always be the man who initiates the relationship, as there is simply no Biblical warrant for such a statement.

The “Marriage Imperative”

1 Corinthians 7:2 is one of those texts that is very often quoted by folks in this movement, and Candice Watters is no different. This is another one of those texts upon which Candice relies heavily. I remember that Debbie Maken brought this text up in a dialogue with me.

1 Corinthians 7:2 But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.

1 Corinthians 7:2 is one of those texts that is very often quoted by folks in this movement. I remember that Debbie Maken brought this text up in a dialogue with me. Of course, one of the reasons why this text is used so often by Candice Watters is because, according to her, not only does it state that people must marry, but that they must marry to stop sexual immorality.

I have already dealt with that passage here in the context of a response to Candice Watters on the Boundless Blog, and I stand by virtually everything I have said on it. I will repost the comment to which I was responding [in italics], as well as my response:

I would also add that while singles often quote 1 Corinthians 7 in their defense of their "spiritually-superior" unmarried state, Paul didn't just say it's good for the unmarried and widows to stay that way. He also said, "But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband." (v. 2). This is the most unquoted portion of that passage. And given our present circumstances, I believe it is the most relevant.

And, this text is the most often misused by people who try to say that, because sexual immorality is so rampant, therefore, everyone must get married. That is not Paul's point at all. First of all, notice the structure of verses 2-4

3. ...husband...wife...wife...husband
4. ...wife...husband...husband...wife

Notice, that verses 2-4 have exactly the same structure, namely, a chiasm. It is in the form of:


Thus, most scholars [including Gordon Fee, whom Debbie Maken quotes in her book], will say that verses 2-4 are a unit. However, verses 3-4 are talking about the marital duty of sexual relations. How can this be?

Of course, the simple solution to the problem is that the Greek term echo [to have] can be used as a euphemism for sexual relations. The following texts in the Septuagint and the New Testament are some of the texts mentioned by Gordon Fee as instances in which echo bears this meaning:

Exodus 2:1 There was a certain man of tribe of Levi who took [a wife] from the daughters of Levi, and he had [echo] her. [translation mine]

Deuteronomy 28:30 thou shalt take a wife, and another man shall have [echo] her; thou shalt build a house, and thou shalt not dwell in it; thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not gather the grapes of it. [Brenton Translation]

Isaiah 13:16 and they will strike their children in front of them, they will plunder their houses, and they will have [echo] their wives. [translation mine]

Mark 6:18 For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have [echo] your brother's wife." [NASB]

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has [echo] his father's wife. [NASB]

Thus, the meaning of verse 2 would be "because of sexual immorality, let each man have sexual relations with his own wife, and let each woman have sexual relations with her own husband."

This interpretation would also fit with verse 1. Paul would be admitting that there is some truth to what is said in verse 1 but, because sexual immorality will exist in this life, we are not to refrain from sexual relations with our wives. Indeed, he goes on to say that there is only one case where someone cannot have sexual relations with their wife, and that by an agreement for a period of time so that they can devote themselves to prayer [v.5]. Thus, the text is addressing one topic from verse 1 until verse 5.

There are also some criticisms that can be levied against your interpretation of this passage. First of all, there is a Greek word for "to marry," namely, gameo, and Paul uses that term down in verse 9 in the imperative. It is hard to explain why it is that Paul used the imperative of gameo in verse 9, but not in verse 2. There is no literary reason why he would change, nor is their a contextual reason why he would change.

Also, it would seem, if we take your interpretation, that Paul contradicts himself twice in this passage. First of all, he says that he has no command from the Lord concerning virgins [7:25], and, given your interpretation, this certainly would be a command to virgins. Not only that, but Paul later on commands them not to seek to change their state [7:27]. Now, whether you limit this to the time of the "present distress" or not, you have just made Paul command the virgins in the Corinthian congregation to get married, and yet, to not seek to change their marital status. Such makes Paul utterly self-contradictory.

Not only that, but your interpretation completely disrupts the text of verses 1-7. Verse 2 would be a statement addressed to virgins, verses 3-4 would be a text addressed to married people, and verses 5-7 would again be referring to virgins. Such an interpretation thus makes the structure of the entire passage totally random, and inserts an unnatural break at every change of audience.

Thus, I would say that 1 Corinthians 7:2 is not at all relevant to our present circumstances as single people.

I have also found out something interesting with regards to this passage. The NET has interestingly translated this text as:

1 Corinthians 7:2 But because of immoralities, each man should have relations with his own wife and each woman with her own husband.

What is also interesting is the footnote that they give explaining the reasoning for their translation:

tn Grk “each man should have his own wife.” “Have” in this context means “have marital relations with” (see the following verse). The verb ἐχέτω (ecetw, “have”) occurs twice in the Greek text, but has not been repeated in the translation for stylistic reasons. This verb occurs 8 times in the LXX (Exod 2:1; Deut 28:30; 2 Chr 11:21; 1 Esd 9:12, 18; Tob 3:8; Isa 13:16; 54:1) with the meaning “have sexual relations with,” and 9 times elsewhere in the NT with the same meaning (Matt 20:23; 22:28; Mark 6:18; 12:33; Luke 20:28; John 4:18 [twice] 1 Cor 5:1; 7:29).

It is interesting that they have said the very same thing I said above. Not only that, but other very well known commentators say the same thing. Dr. Craig Blomberg [pgs. 133, 136], Gordon Fee [pgs. 278-279], and Dr. Richard Hays [pgs. 113-114] have all taken this interpretation of this passage in their commentaries. In fact, Gordon Fee says he knows of no instance in which the idiom "to have a wife" means "to take a wife" [Fee, p.278 n48]. He says that, in most of those instances, the Greek term lamba,nw is used. He sights the fact that this idiom is used in a Western text variant of 7:28 where it replaces the Greek verb game,w which means "to marry." He also cites an apocryphal text in Tobit 4:12 which does, indeed, refer to taking a wife because of sexual immorality [pornei,a], and lamba,nw is clearly used there. He concludes that, "Paul's usage is clearly different from these" [Fee, 278 n.48]. Furthermore, Fee notes that, for a woman to "take a husband" was utterly foreign to first century cultures [Fee, 278 n48].

Hence, when someone tells you that you should marry because of the rampant sexual immorality in our culture, and they point to 1 Corinthians 7:2, read it from the New English Translation, and then have the citations from Gordon Fee, Craig Blomberg, and Richard Hays ready and waiting.

This concludes the first section in my review of Candice Watters' book.


Berlin, Adele. The Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism. Indiana University Press. Bloomington, Indiana. 1985

Blomberg, Craig. 1 Corinthians from The NIV Application Commentary. Zondervan Publishing House. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1994

Collins, C. John. Genesis 1-4, A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company. Phillipsburg, New Jersey. 2006

Fee, Gordon. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1987

Gesenius, Wilhelm. Kautzsch, E. (ed). Cowley, A.E. (trans). Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar. Second Edition. Oxford University Press. Oxford, England. 1990 [cited as "GKC"]

Hays, Richard B. First Corinthians from Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. John Knox Press. Louisville, Kentucky. 1997

Jouon, Paul. Muraoka, T. A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew. Two Volumes. Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico. Rome, Italy. 1993

Matthews, Kenneth A. Genesis from The New American Commentary Series. Broadman and Holman Publishers. Nashville, Tennessee. 2005

Sailhamer, J. Genesis. EBC. Grand Rapids. Zondervan, 1990. Quoted in Matthews, Kenneth A. Genesis 1-11:26. NAC. Broadman & Holman Publishers. P.251

Waltke, Bruce. O'Connor, Michael. An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. Eisenbrauns Publishing. Winona Lake, Indiana. 1990

Waltke, Bruce. The Book of Proverbs from The New International Commentary Series. 2 Volumes. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 2005


LadyElaine said...

Thank you for making the arguments used in question so clear.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Thanks ladyelaine! Keep reading. There will be more to come!

God Bless,

RedKnight said...

The one thing that I do not understand about your essay, is the relationship between the husband and wife. It appears that you are suggesting that the wife will naturally resent giving her consent to her husbands commands. And that this ill will sours the marriage. What I do not understand is why would God design a matrimonial system which creates disparity, and/or hostility, between the sexes. I mean why can't man and woman be co-equal? The only reason that I can think of,from a christan standpoint, is that there is no feminine entity, within the trinitarian Godhead. Unless of course you were to consider Shekinah (the Holy Spirit) to be feminine. This is why certain feminists follow the "Goddess Movement", instead of traditionaly patriarchial religions, like Christianity.

Gordon Hackman said...


I haven't commented on, or, for the most part, closely followed this issue for the better part of a year. I had come to see it as a largely sinful waste of time for me, as well as an issue that had no immediate impact on my life. I knew I did not consider the marriage mandate viewpoint to be correct and, since my church does not promote such views, I had decided to leave it at that and instead focus my time on the things God has called and gifted me to do. I pretty much still feel the same way. I have, however, checked in on the issue, including your blog, from time to time, and I feel compelled to comment now.

I just want to say that I really appreciate a lot of the things you say in this post. They are helpful and clarifying. Thank you for taking the time to go through this stuff in detail.

I do have one criticism, however. The post is simply too long. I think you will lose most people before they get halfway through the post. I think it might be more effective if you broke the post into four separate posts, one for each of the scripture passages you deal with. That would make the material you present here far more digestible.

I actually have an M.A. in Communications and Culture from Trinity (TGS). I walked in 2004. One of my friends was a T.A. for Dr. Averbeck. Peace.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Hey Gordon!

Ya, I thought that too after I posted it. That is why the second and third parts of the response are two parts and one part respectively.

Ya, Dr. Averbeck is a great guy. He has really helped me in my study of Genesis.


Actually, what I said was that it is only the fall that creates that disparity. Were it not for the existence of sin, every woman would willingly submit to her husband. However, the fall changed all that. Hence, it is because of sin that this all happens.

God Bless,