For Donal: Clarifications/Expansions

I’m devoting this post to Donal, who had some problems with my last post.

Here’s his second comment, in its entirety:

What I have a problem with is the game of fingerpointing that discussions tend to devolve into – and the fatalistic, might as well jump off the dock attitude.

I agree. Blame games are rarely helpful. And whining helps no one. But there is something in your response I must disagree with:

If God wants you to have a good spouse, you’ll get a good spouse.

You complain about fatalism, and then offer this? It sounds biblical at first (Proverbs, right?). But its not. Because it ignores human agency. There are a lot of things that happen in life that God wants, but there are a lot of things that happen that God doesn’t want. God has given us Free Will, or Agency, or whichever term you prefer. Either way, we can choose to follow Him, or choose not to. And oftentimes when we choose not to, others, especially the innocent, suffer.

The idea that if God wants people to marry well, then they will marry well is based not on any solid theology, but on wanting to feel better. This notion allows the proponent to feel better about themselves, because it tells them that if someone who otherwise seems worthy doesn’t marry (or marry well), then it must have been what God wanted all along. And if God wanted it, then it can’t be bad, right? It is founded on a refusal to acknowledge that there are those who should marry, whom God would want to marry, but don’t because of the actions of others. It is a refusal to acknowledge the oft-times cruel nature of life.

Marriage isn’t the end-all, be-all. It’s not a prerequisite for having a godly life. It’s not even a prerequisite for having a good life. It’s one of many very good things. God made a lot of good things for us to turn our hands to, to spend our lives doing.

If you don’t feel called to fix marriage, I understand. But you seem to downplay it here Hearthie. Very few Christians have the so called “Gift of Singleness.” Most should marry, and downplaying marriage and its importance helps no one. A visiting priest once explained to me that marriage is an institution created to help men and women alike get into heaven. It provides a means a man and woman to aid each other, to compliment each other, and to help each other avoid sins and to walk the difficult path we as Christians are called to walk. Stated simply, marriage, when done right, helps us get to heaven. And when the institution is in such a state as it is today, then the souls of many are in jeopardy.

We shouldn’t idolize marriage, as is often the case in this culture. But we need to acknowledge its importance and centrality to our lives as Christians. Calling it just one good thing among many is a terrible mistake.

1)  Thank you for your comment!  My worst sin as a writer is my tendency to run headlong past things I should discuss in greater depth, assuming that my reader understands what I mean.  You’re holding me to account, and I appreciate that.

2)  The nature of causality is something that the best minds in Christendom have debated for centuries.  I’d enjoy discussing it, but that’s not really the point of my post.  Yes, I believe in the free-will of Man, and that free will has unpleasant consequences for the innocent.  I also wholeheartedly believe that God can do whatever He chooses in our lives.  I refer you to Romans 8:28, “works all things together for good…”

So we could say that *in general* that God intends for most of His children to marry.  We can certainly agree that the fallen world we live in has made finding a suitable mate difficult, and maintaining a godly marriage a constant challenge.  However, I believe that God works in the specific.  He doesn’t want you to “get married” – He wants you to marry Emily.  Is that more clear?  Of course both of you can assert your free will and harm the other thereby… but “be anxious for nothing”.

3)  I do think marriage is very important.  And I work to encourage young women to be good wives, occasionally I write about it, I strive to be a good wife, and I raise my kids in a home where there’s a lot of love and they are given a good example of a healthy marriage.   I do not have the power to restructure the world to make it more conducive to Biblical marriage – I do have the power to encourage women to become more godly in all things so that they can be better wives, mothers, friends… etc.

4)  That brings us to the center point.  Good marriages stem from two people who love God and are willing to obey Him in all things.  If you’ve got a godly character, good actions will flow.  A fig tree bears figs, yes?  So – what I’m saying is that we are chasing the effect when we should look more closely at the cause.

Example:  Wife doesn’t have as strong a sex-drive as her husband.  She’s a godly woman, who will obey the Bible.  Elder woman hears that she isn’t providing this to her husband as much as she ought, because she’s been miseducated.  Elder lady gives her chapter and verse about not depriving your mate.  Godly wife repents – because God says to do something that she is not doing – and provides more intimacy for her husband.  What is her motivation?  That she is disobeying God.  Give her the correct information, she steers right back on course.

Same problem, but the wife is only wearing the name “Christian” rather than in total submission to God.  Wife argues that husband is unreasonable, that God didn’t really mean that, that it’s Tuesday and she’s over burdened and…

What’s the problem?  The problem is the heart.  Fix the heart, the behavior falls in line.

5)  “One good thing among many” – okay, I’ll take that one on the chin.  Yes, that was an exaggeration for effect.  But don’t worry – this is far from the last lance in my quiver.   Marriage was just my first target.

If, instead, I said that God is the top of the pyramid, and the other things are on the second tier, that would be clearer and closer to my intent.

6) I am a Protestant, so the only thing that helps me get to Heaven is Jesus’ shed blood on the cross.   I’ve already got my passport, I’m just waiting for the boat to leave.  Meantime, I’ve got work to do.

……

What I am calling my readers to is a faith that shocks the world around them.   I want to talk about being so very different from the World in our every attitude, every action, that the World can’t help but notice the difference.   So – I’m going to talk about ways that Christians have let the World’s priorities sneak in……

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30 thoughts on “For Donal: Clarifications/Expansions

  1. donalgraeme

    I don’t have a lot of time now, so I will have to respond in depth later (probably tomorrow). But wholeheartedly agree with this:

    What I am calling my readers to is a faith that shocks the world around them. I want to talk about being so very different from the World in our every attitude, every action, that the World can’t help but notice the difference. So – I’m going to talk about ways that Christians have let the World’s priorities sneak in……

    Reply
  2. Phedre

    My understanding when you said “If God wants you to have a good spouse, you’ll get a good spouse” was that if God wants you to be with a person (that particular person) who naturally tends to goodness, or to Godliness, then that’s what you’ll have. But God may want you to be with someone who isn’t ‘a good fit’, in the worldly sense. They may be very prone to certain sins that make your duty to be a loving/submissive spouse very difficult to execute. Well, that doesn’t change your duty, nor the fact that you still can and must use the marriage as a means to glorify God.

    In other words, of course we’d all like to have what the world would call a ‘good spouse’, and we may feel that we deserve one, but what’s that to God? He has His plan for us, and all we can do is orient our lives to serving Him, whether or not the circumstances are what we wish they were.

    I see Donal’s point that some people will take it as a message that we should not even strive to improve our circumstances. But since our natural inclination is to *improve* our lives, it is only the lazy and those lacking faith in God, I think, who will read a message of futility and despondency into those words. I don’t see why this would be a danger for those rightly oriented to God.

    Reply
    1. Elspeth

      In other words, of course we’d all like to have what the world would call a ‘good spouse’, and we may feel that we deserve one, but what’s that to God? He has His plan for us, and all we can do is orient our lives to serving Him, whether or not the circumstances are what we wish they were.

      Yes! Very well said. A perspective that is rarely heard in these marriage discussions. Everyone wants the perfect mate, one that will guarantee no difficulties.

      Reply
    2. donalgraeme

      In other words, of course we’d all like to have what the world would call a ‘good spouse’, and we may feel that we deserve one, but what’s that to God? He has His plan for us, and all we can do is orient our lives to serving Him, whether or not the circumstances are what we wish they were.

      Agreed. Although I think it worth pointing out that there are very few instances in Scripture where God acts as an actual Matchmaker. Hosea is one example, and Mary and Joseph another. Given this, I think that the idea that God chooses our spouse is not really supportable. Yes, He can do this, but it is rare enough that scripture makes note of those extraordinary occasions. It is up to an individual Christian to have to determine who they marry most of the time.

      My concern was not so much over people having trouble marrying, but about those who talk to them. What I was trying to say was that those who downplay the significance of the problem are not helping any. Yes, we make an idol of out marriage these days. But that doesn’t mean that real, biblical marriage isn’t essential for most (as in, nearly all) Christians.

      Reply
  3. Elspeth

    I have a totally unprovable but deep conviction that I was specifically constructed to be my husband’s wife.

    I feel the same, Hearth. I think Phedre’s point was that too often when things aren’t smooth sailing, more often than not, people question the sovereignty of God; whether in the case of their marriage or whatever else.

    This kind of piggy backs on that other convo we were having away from here. What does a “good marriage” look like? And how often does our understanding of good line up with God’s intentions for our lives?

    Absolutely vet hard and thoroughly, but with an eye open to God’s will above all else is how I read her comment.

    Reply
  4. donalgraeme

    OK, here is my attempt at a response.

    2) Causality is a tricky thing, and I can appreciate leaving a discussion about it for another day.

    However, I believe that God works in the specific. He doesn’t want you to “get married” – He wants you to marry Emily. Is that more clear? Of course both of you can assert your free will and harm the other thereby… but “be anxious for nothing”.

    This sounds a lot like a “soul mate” kind of argument. And I don’t find any scriptural support for this notion at all. Neither in the Old Testament or the New. In fact, the concept of “soul mates” is a pagan idea, and one that seems to have infected Christianity as of late. Certainly I don’t know of any evidence of it having been ever part of Christian teaching or doctrine until very recently.

    4)

    Good marriages stem from two people who love God and are willing to obey Him in all things. If you’ve got a godly character, good actions will flow. A fig tree bears figs, yes? So – what I’m saying is that we are chasing the effect when we should look more closely at the cause.

    Yes, and this gets to the problem. The real problem. Marriage is broken right now because Christians are mostly broken in their faith. We have become a rebellious people at heart who have turned our backs on God. We are not longer his friends, because we no longer follow his commands.

    This is something I think that a lot of Christian manospherians have been pointing out for a while. Many of the laments about a lack of suitable spouses arise because so few “Christians” out there have their hearts right. It is a wasteland out there, and finding the uncontaminated spring amidst the polluted waters can be the task of a lifetime.

    5)

    If, instead, I said that God is the top of the pyramid, and the other things are on the second tier, that would be clearer and closer to my intent.

    Interesting analogy. I have a complicated one that I need to take the time and write down, but I think it will be helpful to folks. Until then, let me offer this alternative:
    God is our destination. We are on a path to find/reach him. God has given us certain tools to help us find/reach him at the end. Scripture is one such tool. Marriage is another. With them we can keep to the path, avoid pitfalls, and know the false signs when we find them.

    6) Not sure, but that almost sounds like “once saved, always saved.” Perhaps you should consider this bit from Hebrews 10:

    26 For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries. 28 A man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

    Salvation comes from the cross, yes, but we can lose what was gained for us if we fall back into sin. Therefore, we should avoid that which leads us to sin, and seek out that which helps us avoid sin.

    Reply
    1. hearthie Post author

      And no one can take us from His hand (I can cite verses if you want, we can have a good ol’ time debating…). Since I believe in OSAS (although my version of salvation involves more than saying some words), it makes sense that it sounds like that’s what I was saying. I go back and forth about whether deliberate apostates have lost their salvation by an act of their free will or had never really given their hearts to God in the first place… or are just particularly heart-breaking prodigals. Other than deliberate apostasy, nope – if you were really saved in the first place, I don’t think you can lose it.

      For this, and for causality and for free will vs. predestination, although I enjoy the debate (I truly do, and if you want to, it’s good exercise for the brain and I’m totally down) I think we’re trying to create nets of words to catch concepts bigger than our reality. I don’t believe that *anything* I do can take my salvation away. Now, if you want to talk about my eternal reward (which I will be, soonish) … now *that* can be reduced/removed. So my marriage might make me holier, and closer to God (boy howdy, has it) and give me an opportunity to serve God and make the fruits of the Spirit apparent in my life, give me an opportunity to practice agape love… yep. *Totally*. But salvic? Nope.

      Reply
    2. Phedre

      Donal, rereading my post I acknowledge that it sounds like I’m talking about some kind of soul mate thing, which like you said would be unscriptural. Like Hearthie and Elspeth though, I *feel* like “I was specifically constructed to be my husband’s wife.” I know that I could have had a very solid, good relationship with a different man, but there are aspects of the way we mesh together that just seem too peculiar to be accidental. But maybe they are. There cannot be proof, it just really really seems that way from the inside.

      Now if you’re already married and the person you’re with isn’t some ‘special’ match for you, then (and this was the point of my post) you’re better off not bemoaning your choice, which may or may not have been aligned with God’s Will (which you have no way of knowing anyway). It doesn’t matter whether you could have pulled a better spouse had you known all the red-pill/manosphere stuff you know now. Do your duty to your spouse and glorify God through the marriage. *You don’t need a ‘specially-matched’ or even ‘good’ spouse to do this*.

      For the unmarrieds, like you, it’s much tougher though. At what point do you settle?

      Reply
      1. donalgraeme

        Phedre,
        As I have said elsewhere, it feels like that because you (and he) worked hard to make it so that you became each other’s “soul mates”. It wasn’t destiny, it was dedication and faith.

        You are right of course that if your choice of marriage partner was less than ideal, then you just have to work with it. God holds us to our vows, and we have to make the best of the situation we find ourselves in.

        For the unmarrieds, like you, it’s much tougher though. At what point do you settle?

        I haven’t figured out the answer to that yet. It is something that occupies my mind greatly.

        Part of the issue for me is determining what would be settling or not. I know that if I ran across a woman of a certain caliber, and she was amendable to marriage, then I would almost certainly marry her. Whereas with a woman not to that point, I may hesitate and look around more some before committing. However, I also know that time isn’t on my side and that to get what I am looking for I need to act sooner, rather than later. It is a terribly perplexing and difficult matter all in all.

    3. Phedre

      Donal, we didn’t work very hard at it at all. We are just incredibly well-matched in ways that we still keep discovering 9 years on and probably will for the rest of our lives. But you may be right that the feeling is merely the result of having adapted to one another to a very high degree. It just really feels like something far beyond that.

      As for time not being on your side, my husband was 37 when we met. I was 18. I guess you might take that either as an encouragement or a discouragement, but I hope the former.

      Reply
      1. donalgraeme

        Phedre, I’m glad that you seem to have found a great match.

        Sadly, 37 doesn’t seem that far off now. So I guess I would take it as encouragement. Although pairings such as yours are all but unheard of these days.

  5. Maeve

    I find it a bit dismaying that the discussion has actually turned into an issue of “settling” – because I think it’s a recipe for disaster. Nobody, man or woman, wants to be the person someone “settled for” – not sure if I’m explaining it right. Settling for someone is not the same thing as loving someone. It’s a form of score-keeping and it sets a precedent that can’t speak well for a long-term union.
    Let me put it this way, if I had learned during the course of our marriage that the H had settled for me because I met most of his criteria, and he didn’t think he’d be able to actually find someone who ticked all the boxes, so he figured I’d “do”, it would be devastating to me and I’m not sure I could recover from such a thing. I think the H would have felt the same. As it was, neither of us “settled” – certainly we married with the understanding that neither of us were perfect, but we wanted to share our lives together and we were both BSC over each other. (I will admit that maybe I’m not the best example given that my marriage is in the toilet, but it was not always like this – in fact for most of it, it was an absolute joy to wake every day and know I was his wife – and that’s what marriage ought to be).

    Reply
    1. hearthie Post author

      Yes, that’s something “Red Pill” that I’ve never addressed because my experience is so radically unlike that. There are guys I dated other than DH (when we were on the outs) and I’d never have MARRIED them because it would have been settling and I’d never do that to a man. No other man makes me feel half way like my husband did five minutes after I met him. Sure, they’re nice and I’m a fluffyhead who can blush at anything, but … that’s not the same thing. So much not. Well, I wouldn’t write about not idolizing your spouse if I hadn’t had practical experience in that particular mistake. 😉 BSC is a good word for it, Maeve.

      I don’t quite believe in love at first sight, but I do believe in an early “click” where you just *know*. DH had that click with me, if you want to not listen to the fluffy bunny. That’s why he broke up with me the first time, ’cause we were 14 and there is NOTHING that will scare a 14yo boy off faster than flashing to his wedding day. (Least effective break-up ever. Kept hugging me every time we saw one another).

      My mom talks about something similar. Not love, not yet, but the knowing. She and my dad went to a party in Mexico together, although she was someone else’s date… they saw each other across a crowded room and BAM. I’ve heard this from other long-married couples.

      Red Pill Reality tends to downplay non-measurable stuff and I can see why, because we’ve deified emotion over practicality. Telling gents not to listen to their hearts or their crotches when picking a wife, that’s good stuff. Hopefully “the one” won’t ever be settling, in mind, heart, or soul. 🙂

      Reply
    2. Phedre

      Well, I suppose it depends on your motivation for marrying. If you want to avoid fornication and you burn, then you must marry. But if year after year you never come across someone you have that ‘click’ with, then what?

      Reply
      1. donalgraeme

        But if year after year you never come across someone you have that ‘click’ with, then what?

        Even if you do come across someone with that click, your problems aren’t over. If that other person isn’t interested in marrying you, then you are no better off than you were before you met them. Perhaps even worse, with disappointment and possible heartache.

    3. donalgraeme

      I don’t think anyone would like to know that their spouse “settled” for them. But I think that we should be realistic and acknowledge that is the case for most marriages. Lets be honest, everyone wants a high-value/top-tier spouse. But unless we are high-value/top-tier ourselves, that isn’t going to happen.

      Of course, that ignores the impact on the person doing the settling.

      Reply
      1. hearthie Post author

        That most people settle. I’m sure some people do, but mostly people marry for (at least temporary) love, which sort of messes with the concept that they’re “settling”.

        I fell for my hubs because he was him, not because he was Big Man on Campus or whatever. Just for the fact that he’s … him. The way he talks, the way he looks at me, the way his voice rumbles and the way his hand s feel when he touches me and…. yeah. (Oh yeah, I still have it bad).

      2. Maeve

        Donal, I don’t think most people consider themselves settling either. Look, I was just a very average kind of dorky girl – and then young woman (OK still am) – with plenty of insecurities. The man I married might be considered a fairly average kind of guy – he wasn’t an athlete, or on some big-money track (when I met him he was a broke E-1 squid) and he had his own ideas of success (which were not monetary). But we were, I kid you not, absolutely BSC for each other. I have no idea if he considered me high value or top tier, but he wanted me and thought the sun rose and set over his head.

      3. hearthie Post author

        I’ve been puzzling over how to answer you for some days. On the surface of your argument, in Worldly terms, you’re right. There are fewer and fewer people of quality these days. And yes, i do think that God’s general will for people is that they marry.

        Hoping for something in this world – no matter how good – is a recipe for despair.

        I’ve been there – no, not in the “will I ever marry” spot – but I’ve been to the place where everyone looking at my marriage told me that I’d be divorced, sooner rather than later. That the differences between my husband and I were insurmountable. And eventually *I BELIEVED THEM*. I drank despair right down to the bitter dregs, and I made some profoundly shameful decisions. Despair in itself is sin, the results of despair are also usually sinful. (Trees do bear fruit).

        When I decided that despair be damned (yes, please) but that I would obey God no matter what, and no matter what it meant for my happiness, that obedience was everything – at that point my life (and my marriage) turned around.

        I happened across this article today, and I think it hits the heart of what I’d like to say… take a read. http://jessconnell.com/the-sovereignty-of-god-in-the-waiting-room-of-life/

      4. donalgraeme

        Thank you for sharing that. I liked it a great deal.

        We should always do our utmost. We shouldn’t ever give up. But at the end of the day, its all in God’s hands.

        We can do everything right in our lives, live according to His commands, but still suffer in this world because of the works of others. But God knows our hearts, and what we lack in this world we will gain in the next.

        In the context of marriage, we can only do what we can do. If others fail to match our efforts, then we have to bear our crosses as best as we can. Whatever may come, God will not forget our efforts.

  6. Pingback: Settle(ment) | Donal Graeme

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