Since writing the previous part of this series, I’ve had the opportunity to read more widely online. I don’t intend to link back to anything which I did in fact read, as my experience was something like sifting through a pile of garbage. Christians seem to have adopted a wide variety of beliefs and opinions regarding the institution of Marriage, even introducing practices in an effort to preserve purity which are foreign to the Bible. Assaults on free choice, making up systems of rules, attempting to bring back arranged marriages, claiming that Marriage or singleness is a gift, the suggestion that you’re not an adult without getting married, the claim that ministry is the only reason a person may choose to remain single, nonsense that God will supposedly try to frustrate your attempts to get married because it’s “not his will”, trying to elevate celibacy above marriage, and other false teachings seem to characterize this festering digital landfill.
No doubt, if you want to understand these issues for yourself I once again have a rather radical suggestion for you. Pick up your Bible, grab a concordance, discard all literature or websites talking about relationships, and study it for yourself. You might even think about getting yourself some good Bible software [my own personal recommendations to you are E-sword and Bible Analyzer], as Bible search engines are easier to use than a physical concordance. With that said, let us jump right into debunking these false teachings.
Assaults On Free Choice, God Meddling in Your Relationships, and the gift of singleness
One website I found spoke of people who try to find a spouse. Evidently this was done by going on mission trips, praying repeatedly, and using websites like E-harmony. After giving a lecture about how God does not promise a spouse to any of his people, the writer of the article proceeded to suggest that an individual’s lack of success in this area was due to God saying “no” or “not yet” and that he was essentially blocking the person’s attempts at finding some one.
The first problem with this position is it assumes that when God wants or does not want something, he will block people from going contrary to what he wants. In which case, I would challenge you research the concept of free will from the Bible. For instance, I made citation of two such passages in the previous part from Deuteronomy and Joshua. Free will allows people to walk contrary to God’s will, though there may be consequences for doing so. Jeremiah could’ve told the Lord, “I’m going to get Married whether you like it or not.” He would’ve experienced the results he was essentially warned of if he had, but the point is that he could’ve chosen to walk contrary to command.
As another example, lets take the Bible’s numerous warnings about marrying unbelievers. Christians often do this anyway, yet God does not step in and stop them. He sends warnings through his servants and perhaps convicts them by flashing the Scriptures back into their minds, but he doesn’t cause the relationship to fail and end in heartbreak. He may then allow people to experience the results of their choices. If a Christian prayed for a marriage and God’s answer was “no”, theoretically they could still find and marry some one anyway, as it is free will that ultimately allows this. I cannot stress this enough, you have a choice.
Another problem with these ideas is they ignore Matthew 19:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 7. If a person is trying to find some one, that is a pretty good indicator that they “cannot accept” Christ’s saying in verse 12. Otherwise they would be perfectly fine, and might not experience even the slightest longings in that area. In addition, such views ignore the fact that only two of the Eunuchs on Christ’s list are involuntary and the third is a purely voluntary action chosen by the individual. “Made themselves Eunuchs for the Kingdom of heaven’s sake” makes this pretty clear. If God is manipulating circumstances to prevent some one from getting married because it’s “not his will”, than a person’s state of singleness is involuntary. Therefore one might reasonably argue that they’re not really the third type of Eunuch which Christ mentions. These ideas really are just another attack inside of Christendom on personal choice, likely held because the people espousing these ideas are deterministic in their thinking.
Consider also the Biblical record of Marriages. There are no cases where we read of God stepping in to prevent some one from getting married anywhere in the Bible. You may search from Genesis to Revelation, but you will find no such stories where God has ever done this. There are no records stating that God rigged events so that a person would not find some one. In addition, the only times he ever commanded people to marry or stay single were given under special circumstances to prophets who do not represent the general population. Thus we might safely conclude that in a general sense, God doesn’t do this kind of thing. He may not answer prayers the exact way you want him to, but this doesn’t mean he will stop you if you decide to do your own thing.
After this, the most obvious arguments that can be marshaled against such teachings stem from statements speaking of God’s character in the Bible. I think specifically of John 3:16, 1 John 4:16, Matthew 10:30, Psalm 145:8, etc. God is described as one who loves the world, who is Love, who numbers the hairs of your head, and who is full of compassion. How could a God who is full of compassion deliberately rig your relationships to fail or make it harder for you to find some one? I might further add that if God were to do such a thing, than he doesn’t really love you as he claims, and he isn’t love, because if you love some one you wouldn’t hurt them.
Usually at this point some one objects by saying, “but God will give you what is for your best, and his own glory!” I might ask in response how cruelty is in a person’s best interest, or how it glorifies God. Like it or not, arbitrarily manipulating circumstances in a person’s life to where they cannot get married is cruel. I would not be surprised if some folks would leave Christianity because of this suggestion. Given the fact that there are numerous Bible passages that portray God as a being of love, compassion, and kindness we may safely conclude that the suggestion that God is manipulating circumstances so that you can’t get married doesn’t glorify him. It makes him out to be cruel, like some one who seeking to torture you. Maybe a study on what actually does or does not glorify God from the Bible is in order.
But not only does this fact present itself, but the objection once again ignores Matthew 19:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 7, both of which are authoritative Biblical texts that set the standard for what is or is not best for a person when dealing with this subject. You should let those verses sink in, because they put the abilities a person is in possession of on display and show that whether or not somebody is getting married is really up to them. God would not manipulate circumstances to prevent somebody who “cannot accept” Christ’s saying from getting married. As for 1 Corinthians 7, let’s take a quick look at Paul’s counsel which destroy these ideas.
“For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” – 1 Corinthians 7:7-9
Paul starts off by saying that he “would that all men were even” as himself. If we scroll down to verses 8-9, we find some clues as to what he is here talking about. He speaks of how it is good for the unmarried and widows if they “abide even as I”, then makes reference to those who cannot contain, and says “let them marry.” This suggests that Paul remained unmarried, especially when one considers his reference to containment in connection with these cryptic statements about himself. Thus when he says he “would that all men were even” as himself he is saying that he stayed single, and that he would like it if all men were that way. Above in verse 6 he states that he speaks “by permission, and not of commandment.” So, Paul is here giving nothing short of his own opinion, and thus such a text should not be read as saying all men should stay single. This would be ignoring Christ’s statements in Matthew 19:11-12.
Paul then references gifts, saying that everybody has his proper gift of God. This is usually where people get the ideas of the “gift of singleness”, “gift of marriage”, or even “gift of celibacy.” The problem is that people stop at this verse and do not keep reading. Paul follows up by saying that, “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry.” ‘Therefore’ is a word which links the two statements, since it means “for that reason, consequently.” Paul is saying that because everybody has their proper gift, it can be good if people remain unmarried, but if they cannot “contain” [i.e.] handle that lifestyle they should therefore be allowed to get married. He finishes by saying, “it is better to marry than to burn.” The New King James version adds the words “with passion” into the mix. Here is the crucial point, singleness itself is not the gift but rather to ability to “contain” as Paul states. Though these texts by no means state that celibacy, singleness, or marriage are themselves gifts.
The concept of the “gift of singleness” is something we’ll come back to. But for now, I want you to focus in on the abilities that a person is in possession of. If some one “cannot contain” as Paul states, is it really logical to conclude that God will manipulate circumstances so that they cannot get married? If it would cause them to “burn” as Paul says would God therefore block a person from finding a spouse? The answer would logically be a resounding “no.” This does not mean that prayer will cause a spouse to miraculously appear, or that God will always answer “yes” to such prayers. Though I know some personally who’ve found their marriages through prayer, this doesn’t mean it’s always going to make somebody materialize in your home. We need to remember that God isn’t a dating service or a vending machine. At the same time, I will not say that such prayers are inherently wrong though some act as if they are.
So, if God doesn’t manipulate circumstances to block a person from getting married, what stops people? This would seem a very logical question, and in view of it I would like to point out that there may be practical reasons why a person is having trouble finding a spouse. For instance, it should be noted that the concept of the “gift of singleness” has been used to attack people who desire Marriage. Usually they will get a line about how singleness is a gift, dating is bad because it causes discontent with said gift, they should just be content with what they have, and its wrong to seek for it. They might even have 1 Corinthians 7:27 thrown at them, twisted outside of its context. This kind of garbage is what causes the reaction from the people who run around saying Marriage is a duty, and both positions are wrong. But further, it can cause a person not to seek out a relationship, and thus by default not to find it. Unless you actually put the effort into finding some one, in most cases it isn’t likely that some one will just magically materialize in your home so that you may marry them.
In which case, it is also worth pointing out that merely praying about it until you’re blue in the face doesn’t guarantee somebody will show up. Especially if you’re the man, because it seems like women these days expect men to do all the work in getting things started. Some even go so far as to preach that this is the way things are supposed to be, when I’m not convinced the Scriptures really definitively teach that. Others things worth consideration might be that you give up too easily [i.e. it fail a couple of times and therefore conclude it won’t happen], you have too high of or impossible to meet standards thus causing you to overlook perfectly compatible people, and you’re not open to looking in multiple avenues [there are more websites than just e-harmony, some of which are even Christian specific, and mission trips are not the only place to meet other Christians.] Maybe there are even things in your life and habits that block it from happening.
One of the biggest things that needs to be acknowledged is free will. Not only does the suggestion that God is manipulating circumstances to prevent a person from getting married ignore the free choice of the person seeking, but it ignores the the choices of others involved. For instance, women can choose to say “no” and reject your advances for virtually any reason. This isn’t God manipulating circumstances to prevent you from getting married, it’s the free choice of the woman who doesn’t want to date or marry you. Sometimes an individual just doesn’t like you, and I think Christians should acknowledge that such a thing is a person’s right. It doesn’t mean that God has rigged everything against an individual getting married, neither does it mean that therefore nobody will ever like you. This would be what is termed “over generalization”, which is where one or two pieces of evidence are taken to support blanket conclusion covering all of something.
To Be Continued
This seems to be a good point to cut it off and continue onto a 3rd part, which was ultimately not my expectation. So, I intend to continue examining and refuting the other errors in part 3. I hope this post is a blessing to you!