Responses to Candice Watters Part II
In this section of my responses to Candice Watters I will be addressing the issue of marriage as an idol, and the issue of marriage and the sovereignty of God.
Marriage, an Idol???? YES!!!!!!!!!!!
One of the major things that I have brought up is that, while it is fine, and, indeed, good and right to want marriage, we must be careful of making marriage an idol. I remember bringing this up when, in my first dialogue with Debbie Maken, she said that there were many women who were “rightly loathing singleness.” I replied that we should not be loathing anything as the scriptures tell us not to worry about our life, even when it comes to essential things such as food and clothing [Matthew 6:25-34]! This is a powerful argument, because we can challenge these folks to consider the fact that God’s truth is more important than marriage. We can challenge them to read the text of the scriptures, and to think about marriage in a Biblical way, rather than a way that is based solely upon their emotions and desires. Hence, the Bible then can control and regulate these desires so that they remain desires that are honoring and glorifying to God. Of course, this is why, a priori, we must deal with the scriptures that have to do with marriage with consistent Biblical exegesis. That is why I have dealt with the exegesis of the Biblical text before I have addressed this issue.
Here is the heart of Candice’s argument against this line of argumentation:
Can the desire for marriage really become an idol? It’s technically possible. But that notion has been blown out of proportion. And repeatedly suggesting the possibility of idolatry has done more harm than good. It’s caused a lot of women to tepid in their approach to marriage and made them afraid that any amount of thinking or acting on their desire might be a sin. Both have the unfortunate consequence of making marriage even less likely to happen [p.47].
Candice’s argument is that there have been bad results of presenting this argument, and therefore, it should not be presented. However, this is simply bad logic. Simply because there are bad consequences to making a true argument that does not mean that the argument should not be made. Martin Luther, for example, had his writings misused to try to institute a violent revolution. I am speaking of the pheasant revolt. Luther’s argumentation was misused, but does that mean that Luther should not have revolted against the Roman Catholic Church? Of course not. People can misuse and misunderstand another person’s argumentation, and simply because people misuse an argument does not mean that the argumentation is not valid, and should not be used.
Candice explains more about her line of thinking:
Such caution is rarely urged with other desires. No one would discourage a woman from praying fervently, even daily, for an unsaved family member. And we’d applaud intense and passionate faith for the healing of a friend who was dying of cancer. Even desires that more easily border on idolatry-education, career pursuits, and hobbies-get a near-universal pass. But giving a fraction of such attention to the desire for marriage solicits dire warnings of overdoing it. Fervency when petitioning God for a mate comes under singular scrutiny [p.47].
Of course, this is all a logical fallacy. Just because there is erroneous thinking in the other side’s application of their argumentation against you does not mean that your argumentation is valid. Hence, we have two fallacies, assuming that simply because good argumentation leads to misunderstanding, and because other people have a fallacy in the application of their argument, that therefore means that what I believe is consistent with the scriptures.
However, I think Candice’s point is a good observation about our culture…not in our view of marriage, but in our view of idolatry. Idolatry, yes even of prayer, can, indeed, be a problem. If you trust in your praying to save an unsaved family member, or in your praying to heal an unsaved family member rather than the God to whom you are praying to save an unsaved family member, then you are engaging in idolatry. If you do not believe that God has the right to punish an unsaved family member in hell for their sins, or to take the life of your friend with cancer, just simply because you prayed, then you are, indeed, engaging in idolatry. It is the same thing with carrier pursuits and hobbies. When, in the pursuit of your carrier, or in pursuit of a particular hobby, you neglect the things of God, you are, indeed, making these things an idol. While this caution is something that is not urged in these areas, it is something that must be urged in these areas, and the fact that is not shows that our culture really does not care about idolatry today.
We live in a day in age where the breaking of the first four commandments occurs on a regular basis. Just walk around a typical shopping mall this Sunday, and you will see what I mean. Is the commandment about the Sabbath the only thing that is being broken? Look at all of the people who complain because they have to have what they want right now. Look at how many people get nasty when things don’t go their way, and use the name of God and Jesus in vain. Look at how many people openly walk around with symbols of paganism around their neck, and pierced into their body. Go into the bookstore, and look at the books on Hinduism and Buddhism that talk about the use of statues. The first four commandments are things which are broken all around us. Are we really meaning to suggest that this has had no effect on the church? The purity of worship is a grave concern of mine. Worship is so man-centered today rather than God-centered in most churches, that you wonder if it is man or God that is being worshipped!!!!!! The fact that churches have become more of a self-help program than true Biblical teaching should be evidence of the fact that these ideas have, indeed, infiltrated our church. How many people switch churches like most of us change dirty socks? No, we are living in a culture of idolatry, and we must caution people to be careful in all these areas, just as they are careful in their pursuit of marriage.
Furthermore, I think that, in many instances, we can say that it is not true that we do not give attention to these things as idols. For instance, consider carriers. I have seen a good many movies about a father who is never home because he is the owner of a major business. His children basically grow up without a father, and the whole movie is about the damage that this does to his children, and the father coming to regret the fact that he didn’t spend more time with his children. How is this not making your carrier pursuit an idol? Of course, most of these movies were on family stations that were, in fact, run by Christians. Not only that, but why is it that we so oppose the word-faith movement? We so oppose it because it makes an idol out of faith. I heard one critic of word-faith movement say that it is faith in faith, rather than faith in God. The more Christian the society the more likely it is going to be to take precautions against making these things an idol.
So, in all of this, Candice has not escaped the fact that many women today do make marriage an idol. I can’t tell you how many letters I have gotten from women who, upon reading Albert Mohler, Debbie Maken, and Candice Watters have tried to convince their churches, and when they cannot do it, they end up leaving that church for the Roman Catholic Church. How is this not making marriage an idol? Is this text not saying that my marital state is more important than the gospel of Jesus Christ? What you are in essence saying is that it is more important to me to be married than to be obedient in marrying a man who believes in the true gospel of Jesus Christ rather than a man who believes in a false gospel. Also, it is saying that the truth of the gospel doesn’t really matter. It is not, really, a dividing line between one who is truly a believer, and one who is not truly a believer. It is just fine to join a church who tries to add your merit, the merit of Mary and the saints, and the suffering of purification in purgatory to the sufficient, once for all sacrifice of Christ for salvation, even though the scriptures say that the only way in which a man is justified is through the merit of Jesus Christ alone, and say that anyone who denies that is eternally condemned [Galatians 1:6-9]? Let us also not forget about the idolatrous adoration of the host in the mass, the veneration of saints, angels, and images, and the denial of sola scriptura that we can throw in there. You might say that the Roman church actually honors marriage. Consider the perpetual virginity of Mary, the celibate sacramental priesthood, and the pornocracy and see if the Roman Catholic Church really does honor marriage. The only way to honor marriage is to teach what the Bible says about it. These things are grossly unbiblical.
I remember reading a review of Debbie Maken’s book on Amazon.com of a woman who, upon not being able to convince her church of these ideas, ended up leaving that church for a liberal, mainstream protestant church. Apparently, since liberals can be intimidated easily, as they often are with Islam, she was able to convince these people. However, today she does not believe in inerrancy, and neither does her husband. Now, all of the sudden, marriage is even more important than the truth of the scriptures. It is just fine to believe that the scriptures contain falsehoods, so long as I get my spouse.
What about even Debbie Maken herself, whose book is filled with some of the most sexist comments towards single men I have ever seen. In other words, it is simply fine to use that kind of language, so that women can get their spouse, even though the Bible is completely against it [2 Timothy 2:24-26]. Yet, I have run into women who use even more nasty language than what I have encountered from the King James Only folks in order to try to shame men into marrying them. This type of behavior is so contrary to the Bible, and yet, women are willing to do it in service to marriage.
Not only that, but the same blog that tried to argue that “the gift of singleness is dead” has also been urging Christian women to go outside the church to find “Christian men outside of the church,” which, of course, is an oxymoron. God tells us in his word that we are not to forsake the assembly of ourselves together [Hebrews 10:24-25]. A person who willfully rebels against that commandment of God on a consistent basis is not a Christian. The scripture also says that we are to obey our elders and submit to them [1 Peter 5:5]. How can a person do that if they are not a part of a local church? Hence, what we have here is encouragement to marry unbelievers, since there are no believers outside of the Christian church. Hence, we have encouragement to disobey God, again, all in service to getting married.
Again, I have to ask. How are these things not “making marriage an idol?” The commandments of God against believing false gospels, the sufficiency of the scriptures, commandments against physical idolatry [in Roman Catholicism], the truth of the scriptures [denied by liberalism], wholesome talk, and obedience to the commandment of God about the church, and not marrying unbelievers are all lowered in importance far below marriage. Marriage is so important that you can disobey God in any of these areas so long as you get your spouse. These things go far beyond simple loathing the fact that you do not have a spouse. Even that would be idolatry, as I mentioned above. However, these things are much more blatant and gross examples of idolatry than simply loathing a spouse.
If Candice does not believe this stuff is going on, she is just simply sticking her head in the sand. These people need to be rebuked for these horrid examples of idolatry, and called back to pursue marriage in a way that is God honoring, and God glorifying. The fact that Candice Watters quotes Debbie Maken in her book, and even recommends her book in the “recommended reading” section is not helping the afore mentioned attitudes. Yes, I believe what I said earlier that this idolatry is simply reflecting the idolatry of our culture. We need to be wary of this sin in all areas, including this area.
But can we really make marriage an idol in our postmarriage culture? Not in the way that’s often implied. Where we most often sin in our desire for marriage is not worshiping marriage itself, but in doubting God’s ability to bring it about [p.48].
Candice further explains what she means later on in her book:
It’s not that I disbelieved God could bring me a mate-I just didn’t think He would. Still my heart longed to be married. And on it went. Till Mary Morken helped me to see my prayers for what they were: faithless requests for something I wasn’t even sure it was OK to want [pgs. 146-147].
The reason why I have addressed the topics of marriage as an idol and God’s sovereignty together is because they go together. As a Calvinist, I don’t doubt God’s ability to bring marriage about. I doubt his willingness to do so just because we desire it. God is under no obligation whatsoever to give us a spouse just because we desire to have one. He is the king of our lives, and he can say no to our request for a spouse anytime he wants to do so. I have always asked the question, “Can God say no to your request for a spouse such that you are single for the rest of your life?” The most often answer I get is “no.” That is where I believe the problem lies. If God wants you to be single for the rest of your life, you will be single for the rest of your life no matter how much you “Get Serious about Getting Married” or “Help it Happen.” Not only that, but, if he does decide to give you a spouse, God will cause it to happen exactly when he wants it to happen. You might say that, earlier in your life you didn’t do things that are conducive to marriage. I would say that God ordained that as well. As the Westminster Confession says, God ordains whatsoever comes to pass. I will get into this more in the section on God’s sovereignty, but for right now, we need to understand that God decrees whether or not we will search for a spouse, and whether or not that search will be successful.
For some reason, Candice seems to think that if you say that God is free to give a spouse to whomever he wants, you are simply making “faithless requests for something you aren’t even sure is OK to want.” However, unfortunately, she never describes the logic that Mary Morken used to convince her of this. How is it somehow self-contradictory to say that a desire for something is good, but we need to trust that God knows what his best for our lives, and he will cause our search to be successful if he so desires? It sounds to me that this is much more true faith in God, because we can trust him that, if he says “no” to our request for a spouse, he has done so for a good reason. However, I can’t avoid the conclusion that Candice’s position must ultimately end in saying that God could never have a good reason for saying “no” to a person’s request for a spouse so long as they do the things suggested by herself, Debbie Maken, Albert Mohler and others. As long as we believe that marriage is necessary us as individuals, one wonders if we have faith in marriage, or faith in God.
That some would make women doubt the rightness of desiring marriage shouldn’t surprise us. Paul told us it would happen. He wrote:
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
(1 Timothy 4:1-5 NASB)
Again, this is a canard. No one has said that desiring marriage is not right. What we have said is that the desire for marriage is not more important than the commandments of God, and, if it becomes so important to you that you neglect other aspects of the Christian life, disobey God’s commandments, and engage in worry [all things forbidden by the scriptures] you are engaging in idolatry. I think anyone can see that. I hope that no one would ever say that when you do those things in an effort to find a spouse, it is just fine.
Candice then goes on to say that “the ‘marriage as idol’ warning prevents many young women from gratefully sharing in what God has created as good” [p.49]. How does it do that? How does wanting your pursuit of something good to be pure necessarily stop a person from actually pursuing it? Again, there is no logical connection whatsoever here.
Now, the reason why I have addressed Candice’s usage of scripture before this is because it is so important to show that this position has no scriptural foundation. We have just seen Candice engage in two logical fallacies, make a statement that is a total canard, and the give us a non sequitor. All in all, Candice has not addressed the argument at all. I almost wonder if she knows that, because tries to go back to scripture to give her some foundation. She writes:
Paul said, “But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). Not only is it unlikely that a godly woman’s desire for a biblical marriage would become an idol, biblical marriage is the antidote to much of the idolatry-“sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed”-that plagues our culture. And it is a plague, and epidemic [p.50].
This is why it is so important to understand what is happening in Genesis 3:15-17, and also why it is important to understand why it is highly unlikely that this is what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 7:2. Marriage cannot be the antidote to much idolatry, because it was corrupted by our idolatry in the fall. Where do you think that the competition between the man and the woman where a woman will deny her husband sexual relations, and run off and commit adultery and divorce him comes from? It comes from the very heart of the fall itself in Genesis 3:16, and the sin with which mankind has tainted the marriage relationship. How can such a situation be an “antidote to much of the idolatry…that plagues our culture?” In fact, if the sin problem is not dealt with by the blood of Christ, the woman or the man will take those same sins right into marriage. Now, I am not saying that the problem must be totally dealt with before marriage, but there must always be that battle to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ. It is this that is the only antidote to the idolatries that Candice mentioned. The only antidote to the idolatries of sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed that plagues our culture is the shed blood of Jesus Christ which is the only thing upon which my sanctification is based. It is the only reason why any believer struggles day in and day out to deny himself.
However, someone might say, “Yes, but doesn’t God also use means to sanctify us?” Yes, he does. However, if you think about it, the Bible never anywhere says that God works through marriage to sanctify us. The only marriage which sanctifies us is our union with Christ. The idea that marriage is a means of grace is something that is held by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches alone, and if people who believe this must become Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox in order to believe it, then so be it.
You might say, “But I have grown so much going through the things I have gone through in marriage!” I reply. Yes, and others have gone through those same struggles and have left the faith altogether. The key is that the person must be regenerated, and thus be willing to apply the word of God to those situations. Then, they will be sanctified. Thus, it is not marriage that is sanctifying, but it is the word of God which is sanctifying them! Our marriages here on earth have absolutely positively nothing whatsoever to do with our sanctification or our salvation. The only thing upon which my sanctification is founded is the shed blood of Jesus Christ. It is only because Christ shed his blood for me two thousand years ago on the cross of Calvary that I will be with him for all eternity. I bring nothing in my hands for my own salvation, including my future marriage.
Marriage and the Sovereignty of God
I really wonder why it is that Tim Challies has been giving Albert Mohler, Candice Watters, and Debbie Maken his support in his reviews of their books and writings on this topic. Tim is reformed, as far as I know, and thus, he, like me, is a monergist. He likewise believes that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass. It is difficult then, in light of chapter 4 of Candice’s book which explains the whole anatomy of how one gets to marriage, to understand why he would put his endorsement upon this book. This chapter is synergistic throughout. It very clearly makes what happens in this world partially dependent on man, and partially dependent on God.
Such is simply not hard to prove. It starts from the very beginning of the chapter. She tells a story about a friend of hers named Amy. Here is what it says:
Amy was still recovering, but she was making progress. Only recently unattached against, she was at our house with some of her single friends talking about how she viewed her failed romance; the one she had thought would end, not with a breakup, but a proposal. “It was a roller-coaster ride,” she said. “But now I can look back and see God’s hand in each twist and turn. I believe He wanted me to go through all that to learn some things.” Amy is a devout believer. But here she was, rationalizing a relationship that left her feeling jerked around and hurth, with no marriage to show for it. It’s like she was casting God in her efforts to get married as some kind of cosmic puzzle maker-constructing a picture too mysterious and grand for her to really understand. Because she couldn’t see the lid to the box with the picture of the completed puzzle, the best she could do was guess, after the fact, what He was to. I believe God plays a much more benevolent role in our journey toward marriage [p. 67]
Now, to any Calvinist, that last statement is a complete denial of the providence of God. According to us, the role that Amy described is a benevolent role, because God is changing us, in his perfect time, into the people he wants us to be. That is the most benevolent thing that God can do for us!!!!! Whether we get married or not, our ultimate goal is to become “holy and blameless” in his sight, and that is the very thing God has predestined us to be [Ephesians 1:4]! Hence, God gives us marriage when he wants to give us marriage.
Candice uses language that sounds like it is compatible with Calvinism, but then she goes on to explain exactly what she means. Take this passage for instance:
God is sovereign. He is all-powerful. He delights in giving good gifts to His children. All that and more is true. But none of it lets me off the hook for the things God has placed under my authority. I’m responsible for a big part of the getting married equation, much more than I realized. This was one of the most important things Mary Morken helped me to see [p.70].
Now, a Calvinist could say “amen” to all of that. However, he believes that God has ordained whether or not you will pursue marriage, as well as whether or not that pursuit will be successful. Hence, even if I have to deal with the fact that I want marriage, but my life has not been consistent with that desire, God has ordained both that my life was inconsistent, and that I would not find a spouse, and he has done so in order to teach me a lesson about the fact that the Bible does, indeed, teach that God uses means. God ordains everything for his good and sovereign purposes.
However, that is not how Candice understands what she has said. Here is how she interprets her own words:
I had a role to play. God was working on my behalf; but for marriage to happen, I needed to cooperate with what He was doing. I had to take responsibility for the things that were under my control by God’s design [p.70].
Now, that statement is a complete denial of everything that a Calvinist believes about the sovereignty of God. Once you start talking about a cooperative effort between man and God that brings about things that happen in this world, you have just flat out denied what reformed theology teaches. This is why it is hard to understand why folks like Tim Challies and Albert Mohler support these ideas. It is absolutely amazing to think that Albert Mohler wrote the forward to a book that denies the very reformed doctrine of God’s providence.
I must keep hammering this home. Candice writes the following:
We have the ability to undermine the good things God is trying to do on our behalf [p.71].
Again, how is this statement true in a reformed belief system? Calvinists believe that what ever God wants to do, he does [Daniel 4:35]. Psalm 135:6 repeats this. Psalm 115:3 says that the Lord does as he pleases. In Job 42:2, Job says that no purpose of the Lord can be thwarted. Now, let me ask all of the Calvinists out there, in the light of all of these passages, is it true that we have the ability to undermine the good things God is trying to do on our behalf? It sounds to me like these passages teach us that if God is trying to do it, he will do it because he does whatever he pleases, and no purpose of his can be thwarted!!!!!
Women who are appropriately waiting for guys to initiate still have plenty of things to do-as well as things to stop doing-to help marriage happen; all the while trusting God to play His part [pgs. 71-72].
Again, we have the synergistic cooperation between man and God to bring things about in this world.
Women must do all they can to prepare. Then we can trust God for the rest, knowing we’ve been faithful to do our part [p.77].
Again, I can’t figure out how it is that one Calvinist can write the forward to this book, and another can endorse it when you have a flat out denial of the very reformed belief in divine providence in describing the very anatomy of how one gets married!!!!!!!
Yes, I know Candice uses reformed language such as “means,” but, apparently, according to these texts, she suggests God is obligated to use those means. He just simply is not. Many times God will ordain that a woman will desire a spouse, and they say “no” to their prayers and pursuit of a spouse is so he can teach them to stop trusting in marriage and start trusting only in him. Not only that, but saying that God works through means is not the same thing as saying that God has also ordained those means. The Westminster Confession of Faith states both. As I said, we must remember that Albert Mohler wrote the forward to this book, and Tim Challies has endorsed it. Again, this is simply unbelievable.
Candice keeps on hammering home the point that there are consequences to our actions. To that I agree. However, let me ask a simple question. Are those consequences to those actions meaningless? Are you willing to tell a girl who has an STD or a crisis pregnancy that all of those things are totally pointless? Indeed, it may have been those things which brought the girl back to repentance in the first place! Yes, even the consequences of our sin work together for good. Paul says that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Does God only cause our righteous actions to work together for our good, or does he not also ordain our sin for our own good? We must think about this. We do have consequences which we must certainly face for the things that we do. No question about it. However, it is often times these very consequences that bring us back to living a life that is honoring and pleasing to God. We can very often be used of God, as many women have in these situations, to warn other men and women about the dangers of premarital sexual relations. Yet, are not these ends good? Indeed they are.
Candice also talks about how, in trusting God, we are to be active. She really tries to hammer home the fact that God’s sovereignty does not negate our responsibility. True enough. However, that does not mean that, because we have responsibility, that it is therefore a cooperative effort, and that we can undermine the good things God is trying to do on our behalf. Such is totally irrational. God ordains both whether or not we will “play our part,” and, if we “play our part” whether or not it will be successful. He is ultimately in control.
This concludes part II of my responses to Candice Watters.