Tag Archives: marriage

Is Barack Obama a Christian?

Christianity Today just published a point-counterpoint between Judd Birdsall and me.  We were asked to answer, essentially, the question of whether Obama is a Christian or not.  Judd made a good case in arguing that he is; I, sadly, concluded that he does not seem to be.  I’ll leave you to read both and form your own judgment.

Here’s a snatch from Judd’s piece:

Conversionism: Barack Obama has a conversion story, if not an entirely traditional one. In his bestseller, The Audacity of Hope, Obama recounts how he warmed to Christianity, and the black church tradition in particular, while attending Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. One Sunday, Obama writes, “I felt God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.” Obama’s eventual decision to be baptized “came about as a choice and not an epiphany; the questions I had did not magically disappear.”

And here’s a bit from mine:

The culture, not Scripture, is the primary driver of President Obama’s views. With abortion, his own values matter, not Psalm 139; with homosexuality and marriage, his daughters’ opinions matter, not Genesis 2 and Romans 1. But it is not merely President Obama’s isolated policies, troubling as they may be, that give many Christians like me pause. It is the whole worldview. As seen above, there are deeply unbiblical ideas running beneath the surface of the President’s orthodox declarations. The President’s oratory sometimes smacks of Billy Graham, but those who listen carefully will also hear the dulcet tones of Harry Emerson Fosdick. His is a no-injury Protestantism, liberal Christianity enrobed in a revivalist shell.

(Image: Bossip.com)

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R. C. Sproul Jr. on the Death of His Wife

Reflecting on the recent death of his wife, R. C. Sproul, Jr. wrote this on Twitter:

“I wish I had held her hand more”

That’s all he said.  That one got to me.  Husbands, hold your wife’s hand more.  Love her more dearly.  Kiss your kids.  Sacrifice your work and career to put them first.  (A recent film, We Bought a Zoo, tackled a similar theme in a moving way.  This song seemed to fit this little message–the film has in general a beautiful soundtrack capturing the beauty and tragedy of life.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must do the same.  I need to hold my wife’s hand.

(HT: JT)

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Get Hitched: Why Marriage Is the Social Program to Fix All Others

The Family Research Council runs a great outfit called the Marriage and Religion Research Institute.  This center has recently produced an extensively researched document called “162 Reasons to Marry” that is a stemwinder of a case for covenantal union.

Here’s what the report says at the outset:

With fewer than half our children now reaching the end of childhood in an intact married family, it will be good for all adolescents to learn again and again that an intact married life is a great good to aim for. If they are clear on the goal, they may be motivated to reach it. Just as the children who grew up in the Great Depression became the wealthiest generation in history, maybe we can hope that the children who experienced so much rejection between their parents will become the greatest generation of parents who belong to each other in lifelong marriage.

The report goes on to list the promised 162 reasons.  Here are a few; I would encourage you to read the whole thing, as I am firmly in line with the historic Christian church and modern political philosophers (and candidates like Rick Santorum) in believing that marriage is a) God’s ideal plan for widespread human flourishing and b) the best way to ameliorate many social ills (when coupled with other factors–spiritual, educational, economic, and so on).

Behavioral Problems

    1. Children from intact families have fewer behavioral problems in school.
    2. First-grade children born to married mothers are less likely to exhibit disruptive behavior, such as disobeying a teacher or behaving aggressively towards peers, than children born to cohabiting or single mothers.
    3. Adolescents from intact married families are less like to be suspended, expelled, delinquent, or experience school problems than children from other family structures.

Income

  1. Married families have larger incomes.
  2. Intact married families have the largest annual income of all family structures with children under 18.
  3. Among family structures with dual earners, married households in which both spouses are in the paid workforce have the largest income.
  4. Marriage increases the income of African-American men and women.
  5. Married households have the highest income-to-needs ratio.
  6. Men enjoy a larger “wage premium” (the financial gain men enjoy when they join a female partner) when they marry rather than cohabit.
  7. The marriage premium produces an annual income increase of approximately .9 percent.
  8. Women in intact marriages have a higher income-to-needs ratio than women in any other family structure.

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Filed under marriage, political philosophy, politics

Lonely Love: Seeking Marriage Through the Internet

Is it right for Christians to find a spouse through the Internet?

A recent story in the New Yorker leads to questions like this for committed evangelicals. “Looking for Someone” by Nick Paumgarten paces through the recent explosion of online dating, a phenomenon that has led to real-life marriage for many couples. One selection from the piece shows the complexity of the new romantic landscape:

[T]he fastest-growing online-dating demographic is people over fifty—a function perhaps of expanding computer literacy and diminished opportunity. I recently got to know a woman I’ll call Mary Taft, who is seventy-six, has a doctorate in education, and has been married and divorced twice. She lives outside Boston. As a single mother, in her forties, she gave up men for a while….In 2000, she put an ad in Harvard Magazine. “This seemed horrible to me, but I got all kinds of responses. A nice guy from Vermont drove all the way down to see me.” And then, when she was almost seventy, she discovered Internet dating, and the frequency and variety of her assignations intensified.

The essay traces new developments in romance, but the broader reality behind the piece is ages-old: how to find someone to spend the rest of one’s life with. Civilizations and societies have offered different answers to this quandary with varying results. Whatever one thinks about arranged marriage, for example, it certainly offered a straightforward solution to the question of whom to marry. Though many choice-driven westerners would balk at such an arrangement, we cannot conclude that it does not offer a solution.

This is a matter that requires the attention of pastors and churches. How are we to help singles find spouses in our day? Do we leave them to the wilds of the Internet? I might suggest that the church take an active role in caring for its single members by stressing the essential goodness of the community of Christ. Online dating may not be wrong–it may well led to marriage in some cases–but it seems deficient in comparison to the real-life interaction and experience that the congregation creates and allows.

We might also suggest that the elders and pastors of evangelical churches take note of developments like online dating and shepherd, in even a basic way, the romantic culture of their churches. Is clear from books like 1 Corinthians that church leaders like Paul involved themselves in questions of marriage and romance (chapter seven, for example). Paumgarten’s piece helps us to see that ours is simultaneously a sex-crazed but intimacy-lacking world. Can we form a culture of purity that is also a culture of meaningful connection?

Our churches have an opportunity to show the world a better way to marriage. Perhaps, in an isolary, lonely world, we can image, however imperfectly, a greater union, the covenant of love shared between Christ the pursuer and his radiant bride, the church (Ephesians 5).

**********

This is a post from the blog Thesis.

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Salvation by Conversation–Or, How an Hour a Week Can Save Your Marriage

Mike McKinley posted a few days back at 9Marks on how pastors serve everyone but their wives.  That caught my attention.  Wow.  What a scary and damning reality.  It made me think of a helpful article by Biola theologian Rob Lister on husbands leading their wives in regular conversation on the state of their marriage.  This is by no means the solution to adultery; however, it could aid husbands in creating a strong “culture” for their marriage.  Some husbands just died a quiet death; stick with me.
 
Here’s Rob’s intro to his piece:
Thanks to Jiffy Lube, most of us know the drill by now: either do it yourself, or take your car in for a regular tune-up and oil change every three months or three thousand miles. Fail to maintain your vehicle in this fashion, and you run the risk of your engine locking up and stranding you on the side of the road somewhere in the middle of rush hour traffic.  How odd, then, that many of us would be so committed to the routine maintenance of our vehicles, and yet so often overlook the necessity of giving similar routine attention to our marriages. Clearly, one of the main purposes of marriage is to function as a means of grace in the sanctification of Christian couples. But, in order for marriage to function this way, we must be strategic, pro-active, and intentional.  With that in mind, I offer the following as one practical suggestion of something that Christian husbands may wish to consider as a tool to use in a more routine and intentional effort to lead their marriages for the glory of God.  In the simplest terms, this “tool” is a manageable list of questions that I have attempted to consolidate over the years for regular use in our marriage.
You should read the whole piece (and the whole JBMW in which it appeared).  I received similar advice from pastor Mike Bullmore of Crossway Community Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  Dr. Bullmore is a much-sought-after pastor who nonetheless has a strong marriage.  I sought to pick his brain a bit (because I hope to emulate him as one who serves his family first) and he recommended this:
  • weekly conversations with my wife to talk through our schedules and the health of our marriage and spiritual lives.  I am grateful that he did, as it helped this young and sinful husband-leader (the terms are synonymous) to begin to lead his wife in God-honoring ways.
As you can imagine, it’s easier to do this some weeks than others.  This has been, however, a catalyst for growth and holiness.  Praise God for this excellent advice.  If as men we’re married, then our discipleship under Christ takes a marital shape, meaning that so many of the spiritual challenges before us relate to the way we treat and care for our wives (same goes for women).  Our marriages are conducted not in a neutral zone, after all, but in a spiritual battlefield.  It is not too much to say that they hang between heaven and hell, and Satan goes after every covenant on a daily, even hourly basis. 
 
Chiming in on Mike’s post, I am guessing that one of the greatest influencers for the dissolution of marriages is the simple and inexcusable failure of many husbands to care for their marriages by planning and talking about weekly schedules (which hugely helps a wife in my limited experience), inviting conversation on existing sins and weaknesses, and taking time to encourage and strengthen their wives.  A weekly hourlong conversation–scary as this sounds to some less talkative men–might significantly help to alleviate the clouds of tension that can plague many marriages; a biannual getaway, with a chunk of time for fun, talking and relaxation, could only continue to bring health and vitality to marriages devoted to the glory of God and lived out in the laziness-killing, passivity-imploding, narcissism-destroying power of Jesus Christ. 
(I posted this first over at 9Marks.)

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The Manhattan Declaration: A Bold Statement on Family and Faith

Today at 12pm, a group of evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox leaders released a statement on the sanctity of human life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty.  Called the Manhattan Declaration, this statement represents a bold rebuke of current cultural trends and a clear call to the culture to recognize the harm it is doing itself in crucial areas.

The statement was drafted by Robby George, Timothy George, and Chuck Colson.  Prominent evangelical signatories include Al Mohler, Russ Moore, David Dockery, Danny Akin, Marvin Olasky, Ravi Zacharias, Bill Edgar, Michael Easley, and others.  Evangel has a full list of signers.  The MD is not an outreach of Evangelicals and Catholics Together. 

 The Manhattan Declaration is not simply a statement, but a grassroots movement.  All who agree with the statement are strongly encouraged to sign the Declaration in support.

Download:
 The Declaration

Join the movement!
Sign the Declaration

More on the MD:

The Manhattan Declaration is a 4,732-word statement signed by a movement of Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical Christian leaders who are collaborating around moral issues of great concern. Its 125+ signers affirm the sanctity of human life, marriage as defined by the union of one man and one woman, and religious liberty and freedom of conscience. The Manhattan Declaration endorses civil disobedience under certain circumstances.

Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.

Visit the site for more information.

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4 Out of 10 Babies Born to Unwed Moms

A new story from the Washington Post reports that unwed mothers birth four out of every ten babies born in the US:

“More than 1.7 million babies were born to unmarried women in 2007, a 26 percent rise from 2002 and more than double the number in 1980, according to the report from the National Center for Health Statistics. The increase reflected a 21 percent jump in the rates of unmarried women giving birth, which rose from 43.7 per 1,000 women in 2002 to 52.9 per 1,000 women.”

One of the NCHS’s researchers commented on the report:

“If you see 10 babies in the room, four them were born to women who were not married,” said Stephanie J. Ventura, who led the analysis of birth certificate data nationwide. “It’s been a huge increase — a dramatic increase. It’s quite striking.”

One commentator weighed in on what this means for society:

“We know that babies and children do best with committed, stable adult parents — preferably married,” said Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “That tends to be the arrangement that produces the best outcome for children. I look at this and say, ‘Maybe this trend is what young adults want or stumble into, but it’s not in the best interest of children.'”

Read the entire report.

Christians who tend to downplay the devastating effects of certain social trends need to take this one in.  This is a massive shift.  Society as we know it is morphing before our eyes.  Did you catch the stat from the first quotation?  The unwed birthrate has increased 26 percent in the last five years.  If this were not a blog striving for credulity, I would add five exclamation points to that last sentence.

America is twisting a knife into itself, just as many European countries have done in the last century.  Without any external force pushing us to do so, our country is pulling its foundation up, brick by brick.  Marriage, and the family it produces, is the cornerstone of traditional society.  It cultivates healthy children.  David Blankenhorn and many others have shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that when adults abandon marriage, the results are not abstract or impersonal.  It is children who suffer most–and make no mistake about it, they suffer intensely.

We Christians need to soberly consider this devastating trend and prepare ourselves to preserve traditional marriage.  All over America (and the world), we need to demonstrate and advocate the benefits of marriage to our neighbors.  We need every evangelical church in every community to catch a vision for this, and to commit themselves to reaching out to both unwed mothers and their children.

There is tremendous pain ahead for our society.  There is also tremendous opportunity for the church.  We need to commit ourselves to showing the world the beauty of marriage, and especially of Christian marriage, that form of the sacred institution that displays in visible form the faithful, sacrificial love of Christ the Savior.

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The Link, January 23, 2009

urbanglory1. If you haven’t heard of the Urban Glory website, you should have. My friend Brad Cochrane has a great thing started over there, including a podcast with SBC President Johnny Hunt. Check out the site and its slick design.

2. Another great podcast to keep an eye on is the InSight podcast produced by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. One recent podcast featured an interview with cutting-edge ecclesiologist Ed Stetzer; the most recent edition focuses on marriage, and includes a number of thoughtful Baptist leaders.

3. Speaking of Southern Baptists, I am hoping to see a bunch at the upcoming Gospel Coalition conference in April. If you’re a seminarian, you need to be at this event. Check out the site and registration at the TGC website.

4. Check out some responses to the inaugural prayer of Rick Warren from across the span of American culture and thought. Quite interesting to see how people react to an explicitly Christian prayer in a public setting.

Have a richly blessed weekend, all.

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The Week-est Link, November 14, 2008

edgar1. Here’s a cool cultural engagement site: Gospel and Culture.  Phil Ryken just recommended it on the Reformation 21 blog (itself a worthy site), and I’ve checked it out a bit.  Bill Edgar, one of my favorite thinkers, started this project, and it looks quite worthy of attention.  They do need to post media from their events, though; I would love to access some of the past material.

2. According to the literati (and specifically Wired magazine), blogs are “so 2004.”  Well, so what?  That’s my thoughtful reply.  I am not a fan of Twitter, personally.  Call me a grumpy young man, but it seems to provide endless opportunity for meaningless information that no one really needs to know.  I could have told you, for example, that I hit a few threes in my pickup basketball game this morning, or that I just ate (delicious) pumpkin bread made by my wife, but what would you really gain from that?  Furthermore, I want to shy away from activities that call attention to me and that can be pretty good fodder for narcissism.  Blogging is close enough as it is!

3. This is a great approach to basketball, but more importantly, all of life.  Written by my buddy Jed Coppenger, coach of the Boyce Bulldogs basketball team (Louisville, KY), it’s got some great material.

4. Dave Schrock considers marriage with his characteristic depth.  A great blog to bookmark.

5. A pounding hip-hop video from one of my favorite rappers, Mr. J Medeiros, a Christian who makes great music.  Download this one from ITunes for your next jog–you’ll go faster than before, I guarantee.

–Have a great weekend, all.

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The Politics of Jesus Podcasts Are Now Online

According to a recent notice from conference organizer Doug Baker, the podcasts for the “Politics of Jesus” conference are now online. Each runs between 50-70 minutes.  I’ve included my live-blog of each message so that you can follow along as you listen.

David Nelson, Adorning Our Savior’s Teaching: How the Gospel Matters for Public Life (liveblog)

Andy Davis, Babylon: An Ancient Assessment of a Present Reality (liveblog)

C. Ben Mitchell, Remaking the Future: The Looming Challenge of Resurgent Islam and Evolving Transhumanism (liveblog)

Greg Thornbury, Marriage: If Not Sacred – What? (liveblog)

Nathan Finn: The Pulpit and the Public Square: Some Observations from the Ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (liveblog)

Ken Fentress’s message will be posted shortly.

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