Messages To Millennials (1): Marriage

millennialsOn March 7, 2014, the Pew Research Center published the results of a new Survey: Millennials in Adulthood. Bradford Wilcox has a summary in the NRO. According to the study, Millennials have become disconnected from some basic institutions: marriage, church, and work—though not in exactly the same way in each instance. In response, I thought it might be helpful to address Millennials (aged 18–34) directly on these issues.

According to Pew (via Wilcox),

Only 26 percent of Millennials are married, a record low for their age group. By contrast, back in 1980, when they were the age that Millennials are now, 48 percent of Baby Boomers were married. The Millennial retreat from marriage is particularly worrisome because it hasn’t stopped many of them from having children. In 2012, 47 percent of births to Millennial women took place outside marriage, a troubling trend because such children are much more likely to end up in single-parent families that put them at higher risk of educational failure, poverty, and emotional distress.

Millennials seem to have given up on marriage. In their defense, a Millennial might argue, “We’re just being consistent. The Boomers showed us that marriage is a joke. They gave us “no-fault” divorce, the Gen-Xers were a half-way house and we’re consistent. We spent our youths shuttling between angry and disappointed parents. Why would we want that for ourselves and our children?” Fair enough. The Boomers could argue that their parents, “the Greatest Generation” (World War II) were trapped in cold, stifling marriages that made a mockery of true love and romance.” There’s probably some truth in that characterization but most of the (now aging) Boomers were raised in stable, two-parent households whose greatest mistake was spoiling their children in reaction to wartime deprivation. We could go back to the Dustbowl Generation and fault them for giving up on the fundamental convictions that undergirded the institution of marriage. The sins of one generation reverberate through history to the next and the next.

So, the Millennials are not entirely at fault. They are the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of previous generations who weakened the institution of marriage. Still, are the Millennials right to give up on marriage? No. Why? Because God instituted marriage for a reason. In this fallen world nothing will ever be perfect. One of the more basic reasons that we’ve lost faith in marriage as an institution is that we have been sold a bill of goods about what is possible in the life. The Christian faith has a vision of the future, of how things will be one day. We call that vision “eschatology” or “the doctrine of last things” or “of ultimate things.” Despite what you may have heard and read, this life is not the “ultimate thing.” This life is a penultimate (next to last) thing.

Modernity has offered us a series of competing visions of heaven on earth: Marxism (when the proletariat are in charge), Romanticism (when we’re all experiencing the most sublime experiences), and so on. They’re all cheap replacements for the Christian doctrine of judgment and glorification. The problem with these competing visions of the end is that they have inflated expectations about what is possible in this life. One advantage the older (pre-Boomer) generations had is that the tended to expect a little less from this world and so weren’t as easily disappointed. The life of the Dust Bowl generation was more like that of the Founding Fathers than it was like ours. They were still getting used to electricity. They likely couldn’t imagine a world where we expected a new pocket telephone-television-computer every 12 months. The computerized technological revolution has only fueled those visions of what is possible in this life that tend to make mundane, routine, and ordinary life seem inherently bound for failure.

So, why should you, Millennial, re-think your suspicion of the institution of marriage? That’s a fair question. The first part of the answer is, despite all the corruption and effects (and affects) of the fall, marriage is still a divine institution. It is built into the nature of things. Scripture says,

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” …The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So Yahweh Elohim caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Yahweh Elohim had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:18, 20–25; Revised from the ESV)

Marriage was instituted before the fall. Even before the fall it was not good for us to be alone. The human fall into sin brought with it deception, broken relationships, and pain but after the fall there was something else: mercy and grace. Though he did bring to pass the threatened curse for our covenant breaking (death) he also showed mercy in not destroying us. He showed mercy in restraining the effects of the fall. As bad as things have sometimes been in this world (e.g., the Black Death of the 14th century) they’ve never been as bad as they might be. God’s restraining mercies toward his rebellious creatures does make a difference.

As part of his restraining mercy, God continues to make marriage a good that men and women are intended to share. As a young Christian I once thought that marriage must only be for believers but a dear friend gently pointed out that heterosexual marriage (which should be redundant but must be made explicit in our confused age) is for all of God’s image bearers. Even to non-Christians marriage points back to the original state and to a future state. At its best, it is a witness that things have not always been this way and shall not always be as they are.

Beyond the restraint of evil, from which all humans benefit, he also showed undeserved favor to rebellious humans by promising deliverance from the judgment we had brought upon ourselves. We call that undeserved favor grace. God promised to pour out his last days (eschatological) wrath upon the child of the Eve and that child would conquer the Evil One, who, in God’s mysterious and all-wise and utterly good providence, had introduced corruption into the world (Gen 3:14–16).

The Apostle Paul, who himself was a widower, said that Christian marriage is a signpost to believers of the way Christ loves his church. Reflecting on the very institution of marriage that we saw in Genesis 2, Paul says:

This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Eph 5:32–33 ESV).

The second part of the answer is that, despite all appearances, marriage is still good. They are complicated and messy. Your own experience of your parents’ marriage may have been quite blessed or perhaps not. Whatever your experience you should be a little skeptical of the story the mass media has been telling about marriage and divorce. Things are bad but they aren’t quite as bad as they are made to seem on TV. There are good marriages out there. It’s not true that you have only a 50% chance of staying married. The statistical likelihood of your marriage surviving is much greater than 50% (here’s a summary).

God is good. Despite what you’ve been told, creation (though fallen) is good too. Marriage is one of those creational goods in which God intends for most of us to participate.1 I know you’re nervous. That’s okay. I know that most of your friends don’t seem interested in marriage. That’s unfortunate but they’re confused and misinformed. A million Frenchmen can be wrong. Your desire for sexual union with someone of the opposite sex is normal and it needs to be ordered in the divinely intended way.

In the next post we’ll look at another institution that can help you with this one.


1. Singleness is a gift from God (1Cor 7:8) but it is the exception rather than the rule. If God has called you to singleness, then praise God. If not, praise God but please don’t confuse fear and uncertainty about the future for a call to singleness.

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. I think the mystical/experiential side of Christianity has resulted in many young Christian singles thinking they must hear a directly audible voice from Heaven telling them that Bob or Sue is “God’s Man” or “God’s Woman” for them. When they don’t hear the heavenly choir singing they think it signals a flaw in the other person -he or she must not be the “chosen” one for them, so they continue to look. Worse yet, the preaching they get emphasizes that God has “one special person” picked out “just for you” that will be a “perfect match.” Meanwhile time is ticking…

    • Agreed. How do I know it was God’s will that I’m married to my wife? Because I’m married to my wife.

      There is no perfect person. You get married and make it work and become right for each other.

      Speaking as a Millennial, most were given impractical, nonsensical advice about life by people who grew up in extremely sheltered environs. Those of us who are teachable and open to advice need very basic advice on things like: how to get and maintain a job, how to attract a mate and be a wife/husband/mother/father, etc. It’s almost like we’re starting over from the first day of the world.

  2. Just out of curiosity, on what authority do you gather that the Apostle Paul was a widower? I have read that Paul would have been married as a member of the Sanhedrin, and that some hold that Paul (then Saul), who was appointed to guard the coats of them who stoned Stephen, who also ‘approved’ the death of Stephen, would have approved it as a voting member of the Sanhedrin – and members of the Sanhedrin were required to be married. But on what authority would you say he was widowed? Is it not possible he could have had a wife who abandoned him (and then, technically, he would not be a widower).

    • 1. Neo (unless that’s your actual name) pseudonyms aren’t ordinarily permitted. See the comment policy.

      2. Neo and Albert, I was thinking of 1Cor 7:8 where αγαμος is (sometimes) taken to be used of widows. It’s a debated point. He may have been divorced. As a member of the Sanhedrin, it’s likely that he would have been married at some point. Might his wife have left him? Yes, it’s possible. It’s also possible that he was never married. Calvin seems to have taken that view (see his comm. on 1 Cor).

      Denny Burk does a good job of sorting out the evidence in favor of the view that he was widowed.

  3. As a Millennial I do have additional observation to add about why some couples of my generation don’t get married, or live with someone before they get married. One or both sets of parents disregard the teaching of WLC 139 that an “… undue delay of marriage … ” is a sin. I have a few friends who have been needlessly tempted to not get married, because their parents think they, or the other person, isn’t quite ready in some materialistic way.

    This is wrong! Of course, I’ve had that experience myself also, but with the lady I was interested in. It turned out to be a good warning in that case, but my point is that family members and friends should try to be encouraging relationships even if the other member of the relationship might not quite have all the earthly matters worked out.

    If the couple shows that they are growing in the Lord together trust the Lord to help the other matters get sorted out while they are married. Raising questions is fine, but to withhold consent to the marriage on such matters only pits the fifth commandment against the seventh without any good reason.

    • I should add. In my first paragraph I meant to say, “I have a few friends who have been needlessly tempted to break the fifth commandment, …”. I only know one case where the seventh was broken, in terms of living together without sex or sleeping together. I do however, see a bunch of Millennials who do have live in relationships and do think that marriage is important, but not right now. I ask them why and they usually give some weak reason.

  4. Dr. Clark,

    Isn’t the text that says “It is not good that the man should be alone.” also referring to a larger community (i.e. close relatives, friends and church community, etc)?

    Is this text just about marriage?

  5. Dr. Clark,

    As a Millennial, I’ll admit it’s hard to read what you’ve written here as true. Not to say that, if your main assumption is correct, your response would be incorrect, but that your main assumption doesn’t seem (at least to me) to be an accurate characterization of Christian Millennials.

    This is primarily due to my experiences with Christians in my generation. Most every Christian woman in my generation wants to be married with kids. Most of them are desperate for a husband and family, and if we’re being honest, I’ve seen a few “settle” on guys they probably shouldn’t have. Likewise, most Christian men in my generation are pining after a wife, contrary to the anti-video game and Mountain Dew rants. Almost every single, Christian guy I know outside of college is being brought to his knees out of loneliness, only to turn to the church and receive the exceedingly unhelpful response: “Man up!”

    All of that to say, with all due respect to you (and I say the genuinely), I’m not convinced by your primary assumption here, particularly if you’re going to apply it to Christians. I’m a Christian millennial who is guilty of idolizing and romanticizing marriage, and I am far from being the only one.

    • I don’t think you’re the target audience. In college, the Reformed guys I knew were lonely because the Reformed community was small. The local mainline ‘college group’ was big and tended to act the way Rev. Clark describes.

      A big problem in the Reformed community is the difficulty meeting a spouse. There are local presbytery meetups and singles retreats, neither of which appear helpful. I’m not sure if this issue is ever discussed at NAPARC GAs or classis. I’m convinced a lot of people who grow up Reformed leave out of loneliness. Many of the people who remain are very introverted.

      When you look at the number of kids Reformed people have on average, the Reformed community should be growing exponentially generation after generation, but it’s not. Kids are leaving for a reason.

    • James,
      I’m not saying that demographic sociological studies are *the* metric that Christians–Reformed or otherwise–need to have in their hip pocket, like a program guide for ministry.

      But they do have some utility. Especially if they were done by a group without a clear marketing angle on the results. The Pew study referred to in the 1st para. is the starting point for the article’s analysis. Why aren’t those conclusions “an accurate characterization of Christian Millennials?” Or, why is your individual subjective experience a better benchmark from which to begin said analysis? Isn’t there something to finding out what a bell-curve might be indicating, and aiming center-of-mass at that? What if your limited experience and that of the few people around you isn’t at the mean, but further toward one of the tailing ends?

      The problem isn’t the availability of a “Reformed” spousal partner. You note that there are plenty of families, large and small, in the Reformed world. Plenty of boys and girls to meet, if one (or one’s parents) takes the opportunities provided. The impact of our culture upon us is the unrecognized issue. Romanticism is alive and well, and it is competing with the equally deplorable post-modern rejection of authority (represented here in traditional how-to guidance).

      Neither of those is particularly biblical or Christian. They lack the realism of the Reformed outlook on life. We should lose the Romanticism without adopting Pragmatism. And we need to persuade those who are suspicious of all rules (as an expression of power-play) that knowing how the game is intended (by God, who IS a Lord and Master) to be played is actually liberating.

      We are contending here against unimaginably great spiritual forces. We are standing against the tide–as we always are, in every age. The tide comes in and it goes out. When it is shifting, we often feel as though we have finally got the world to “go along with us” in the truth. In reality, it’s just the tide going back the other way, and we are still the same stick stuck in the mud, and will eventually have to resist the tug in the opposite direction. Or be pulled from our place and swept along with the cultural current.

      Lastly, I think we overestimate where we believe we should be demographically as a “Reformed” community in the USA. As a “remnant” body coming out of the cultural-pulverizing of the church and its related institutions in the 20th Century, our numbers are miniscule. The respectable sizes of many of our families is an expression of our HOPE, hope in the future by the grace of God, not a future that we think we can build by dint of our virility.

      But we are still tiny! A tiny minority population within a minority population of ostensibly biblical Christians. If you know this, they you won’t simply stand around waiting for the Reformed woman to bump into you. That’s like playing the lottery. You have to go to where you should find one.

  6. James and Walt S., you both have a point.

    As a Millennial, I definitely am also guilty of idolising marriage. But I think this itself is the core part of the problem. We have set even higher ‘standards’ (compared to past generations) for our lives and marriages that are nigh impossible to meet.

    I am in a small reformed church and it’s tough to be Millenial and Old-School reformed (sorta ‘alien’ with my skin too). I’ve practically given up on the ideal of meeting a like-minded person of the opposite sex who is single. I’m blindly hoping to meet and convert a charismatic!

    • Les,

      I feel for you, brother. Keep lifting guys like us up in prayer. You know how bad you need it, I’m in the same boat, and so are many others.

      Keep your head up, bro.

  7. The problem isn’t the availability of a “Reformed” spousal partner. You note that there are plenty of families, large and small, in the Reformed world. Plenty of boys and girls to meet, if one (or one’s parents) takes the opportunities provided. The impact of our culture upon us is the unrecognized issue. Romanticism is alive and well, and it is competing with the equally deplorable post-modern rejection of authority (represented here in traditional how-to guidance).

    All the Millenials on here are saying the same thing. There are plenty of kids but scattered throughout the entire country. Look at the map of NAPARC churches. Most people are driving 40 minutes to a church of 40 people. It takes an entire presbytery to equal the size of small local evangelical church. The dating prospects scale accordingly.

    Disagree that we have unrealistic expectations. The problem is a lack of critical mass to meet someone. The “opportunities” you describe just aren’t there. If your view is characteristic of NAPARC leadership, expect further departures of young unmarried people for more populous evangelical churches.

    No one I’ve met my age in a NAPARC church has hopelessly Romantic views on marriage. They do, however, want to marry someone they’re attracted to – a position the Bible seems to support.

    • “If your view is characteristic of NAPARC leadership, expect further departures of young unmarried people for more populous evangelical churches.” Whether this statement is more hubristic or prophetic, it does assert that biology trumps principle. And that in general, NAPARC churches allegedly do a poor job fortifying their youth with an uncompromising theological mind, against the sirens of both their flesh and the world, not to mention the devil.

      You chose to equivocate on my term “availability,” by confining it to geographic terms. And then you accused me of not appreciating the challenges of a scattered church. Clearly, you did not read my post carefully, or else not completely. The last two paragraphs are focused on the reality of the tiny demographic of Confessional Reformed people.

      I spoke of the relative correlation of unmarried boys to girls *within* that tiny demographic, and I emphasized that those individuals or parents who desire to find prospective spouses within that grouping are not bereft of options. You mentioned one or two of the options yourself; and then just seemed to shrug them (and any others you may or may not know of) off as “unhelpful.” What is that about?

      You speak of loneliness, and the availability of more “fish-in-the-pond” among local evangelicals as the preferred option–preferred, as in the option most often taken. Suppose the truth of this. Why would the newly married couple evacuate the Reformed church? Or why should this happen at a greater-than 50% rate? Is it because the Reformed person already left his church permanently to go where so many others were gathering to mingle? Where in this scenario is the Reformed church’s evident failure?

      Why would a young husband from a Reformed church agree to let his non-Reformed wife set the ecclesiastical agenda in the marriage? Because she won’t marry him unless they attend her kind of church? Unless they stay where they met? How is that not an argument against departing the Reformed church entirely on account of “loneliness?”

      And the (formerly) Reformed wives–who advertized their availability to non-Reformed men–are they meeker than the never-Reformed ladies? If this is an actual cause for why Reformed churches may lose a majority of its rising-generation (and I’m not prepared to grant that they’re seeing such losses), that just seems to me yet another argument for urging Reformed youth to marry within their own Confession.

      I also don’t think you understand the critique of Romanticism. It is naive to think that this mode of thought has not affected us all in various ways and degrees. Anyone here recommended marriage without attraction?

      One more thing: it’s not the church’s job to find/provide mates. It’s the church’s job to preach the gospel and administer sacraments and discipline its members. The Spirit of God uses those means to form Christian character; and that character is what makes a proper and attractive mate. I’m happy that the church tries to be helpful and promote both regular and occasional environments where potential partners can get acquainted. But strictly speaking, that’s not its job.

      Marriage is a personal/parental responsibility, strongly supported by the church. Pastors need to be evangelizing all sorts who could be ideal mates for one another within their shared confession. But it is hardly a slight against a church or its officers that they make clear where particular responsibilities lie, as long as they are fulfilling their own mandate.

  8. Bruce,

    Clearly, you’re thorough. I enjoy that in a discussion.

    Let me just clarify something you said:

    “Why aren’t those conclusions “an accurate characterization of Christian Millennials?” Or, why is your individual subjective experience a better benchmark from which to begin said analysis? Isn’t there something to finding out what a bell-curve might be indicating, and aiming center-of-mass at that? What if your limited experience and that of the few people around you isn’t at the mean, but further toward one of the tailing ends?”

    You ask a lot of questions, but give little, if any, answers. Are you a Baby Boomer? (Genuinely, not sarcastically.)

    My subjective experience isn’t better than the benchmark you mentioned–actually, it is. Because that benchmark doesn’t exist. The study cited here does not look into reformed Christianity. You (assuming, by what you’ve written) are in a reformed church, and Walt and I are trying to say something that the older generation just isn’t getting: “Help!”

    You’re not helping by not answering any questions, you’re not helping by bashing us and writing books entitled “The Dumbest Generation,” you’re not helping by telling me my generation is the world’s worst generation to date. Stop telling me how my generation is wrong, and open your eyes and ears for a moment. Listen to us. Hear our cries for help; help finding spouses, help paying rent, help combatting certain sins in our lives. Too many millennials have left the church because, quite frankly, the Baby Boomer pastors haven’t done their jobs. They haven’t helped us. They haven’t discipled us.

    In the end, Bruce, do you want to reach out and help the Christian millennials? Stop beating them into the ground for a second, and help them out of the hole they’re in.

    • James (and Walt),
      Thank you for a gracious word; “thorough” and “combox” are not two terms that (probably) belong to many discussions.

      For the record, I’m not a boomer. Probably, some pastors have dropped the ball. But are you sure that your own “target” is accurately placed? Is it “Christian pastors?” “Reformed Christian pastors?” How do you define the duties neglected? Or those that should be taken up? Sorry for a bit more of the “Socratic method” there.

      My read of the OP had RSC using some Pew-study conclusions (a wide-angle lens) to make some directed appeals to their primary target demographic, assuming the truth of their conclusions and some first-order direct inferences that couple study data with Reformed theology.

      Preemptive admission: I make mistakes. I have misread what people wrote, or misunderstood what they meant.

      When I read you as saying, “RSC, you’re wrong because I’m a Christian Millennial, and I…” that seemed to be a criticism that he had failed to poll a true and representative sample for *his* target demographic. That he shouldn’t have leaped into an appeal to Christian Millennials based on a report that was broader than the narrow category.

      My series of questions was intended to be a counter-challenge. If you self-identify with the larger category, what’s wrong with the report’s (or RSC’s use of the report’s) general assessment of that demographic? Or, why is your (limited) experience as a Christian Millennial a more reliable median-benchmark for that narrower category of the Christian Millennial?

      RSC’s “main assumption” (your term) for the purposes of his article seems to be that a “Christian Millennial” bell-curve could most likely be plotted along the same general fall of the overall Millennial bell-curve for the study, and any divergence would be minimal. If that was a false presumption materially affecting the value of the article, it’s my (no-count) opinion that he’d need more than your personal claim to have the truly relevant bellwether experience for his target audience.

      In other words, all I saw was you saying that he was aiming at the wrong target, because look at where you’re standing!

      But in your reply to me, you’ve actually gone further and are saying that not only would a “Christian Millennial” target have been the correct aim, but that within that target an even further refined target should have been sought, and once again your experience is the key to a better article.

      Now you weren’t *that* specific in your comment (i.e., Reformed). You wrote, “your main assumption doesn’t seem (at least to me) to be an accurate characterization of Christian Millennials.” And again, “I’m not convinced by your primary assumption here, particularly if you’re going to apply it to Christians. I’m a Christian millennial…”

      But regardless if “Ref.Chr.Mil.” is what you meant, there’s still this matter of saying that RSC is wrong, rather than saying (perhaps more charitably?) that this article doesn’t really address the issues you are dealing with, because you find yourself outside his main target area.

      I believe you when you say you highly regard RSC. Which is why I think you would agree that respectfully wishing that he’s addressed more of your personal concerns is not the same thing as (respectfully) finding fault with his “primary assumption,” which ends up being that your experience wasn’t his point of aim.

      You might have a right to be miffed with me, had I failed to answer your questions–but this criticism of me is invalid because you didn’t offer any questions there to answer. You made a series of comments and stipulations. I took issue with one aspect of your response that appeared unfounded, at least in the expression of it that you chose.

      I’m not writing the dumb books. I’m not picking on your generation. I’m not even a part of that collective, but neither do I like any kind of ham-handed broad-brushing; but I’ll tolerate a scientific study now and then, provided it dispassionately presents data, and doesn’t try too hard to determine the future by picking the trends.

      Finally, I appreciate the plea for help. I think the church and its leaders and members should be sensitive to certain key “missing pieces” in people’s lives. And if possible, some resources can be sought for that will answer to the need, if it doesn’t lead to neglecting the core ministry of the church. At the very least, certain ones shouldn’t play ignorant of some member’s sense of suffering going forward.

      May God give all of us grace to do and respond in the right way.

  9. “Too many millennials have left the church because, quite frankly, the Baby Boomer pastors haven’t done their jobs. They haven’t helped us. They haven’t discipled us.”


    Which goes back to my question about the larger meaning of the Genesis 2:18 text.

    • Les,

      Calvin is spot on, in my opinion, when he writes in his commentary on Gen 2:18, “I, however, take the meaning to be this, that God begins, indeed, at the first step of human society, yet designs to include others, each in its proper place. The commencement, therefore, involves a general principle, that man was formed to be a social animal.”

      Whenever people use Gen 2:18 to push marriage and give me the whole “why don’t you have a wife?” rant, I cringe really hard. That’s not why Genesis 2:18 is there. At least, not in my opinion.

      • James,

        I agree that believers should respect conscience and the possibility that God has called one to chaste singleness (Paul speaks very highly of this state in 1Cor 7 as I mentioned) but I am not convinced that Gen 2:18 doesn’t have reference to marriage.

        Then Yahwel Elohim said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

        The clause, “I will make” is apposite of “not good to be alone.” In other words, “helper” is the remedy for “alone.” Yes, that is society—a family is the smallest society or, as Althusius said, the most basic unit of society, but it begins with the union of a man and a woman, which is what is in view here.

  10. Dr. Clark,

    I didn’t mean that Gen 2:18 doesn’t reference marriage, but that it is not the sole purpose of the passage. Going, again, with Calvin:

    “But although God pronounced, concerning Adam, that it would not be profitable for him to be alone, yet I do not restrict the declaration to his person alone, but rather regard it as a common law of man’s vocation, so that every one ought to receive it as said to himself, that solitude is not good, excepting only him whom God exempts as by a special privilege. Many think that celibacy conduces to their advantage, and therefore, abstain from marriage, lest they should be miserable. Not only have heathen writers defined that to be a happy life which is passed without a wife, but the first book of Jerome, against Jovinian, is stuffed with petulant reproaches, by which he attempts to render hallowed wedlock both hateful and infamous. To these wicked suggestions of Satan let the faithful learn to oppose this declaration of God, by which he ordains the conjugal life for man, not to his destruction, but to his salvation.”

    Brian Kammerzelt probably has the best thing to summarize my (and Calvin’s!) view:

    “About here is where people usually protest a bit and exclaim, ‘but didn’t God say it is not good for man to be alone?’ Yes, God did in Genesis 2:18. God did. … What’s more, within Christian community, you are not alone. That verse is not entirely marriage centric or even sexual. Adam had no knowledge of such things before Eve. It was that man was created as a social creature that needed to be in community with an equal and have intimate companionship. Within a community of Christ, among the brotherhood and sisterhood of all believers, no one need feel alone.”

    He nailed it.

    • James,

      I agree with Calvin. I think it would help to note the particular issues to it she is speaking.

      I don’t think I can agree with the second commentor insofar as he seems to conflate creation and redemption. Genesis 2:18 is given with creation or the state of nature and view. The church as community, after the fall, is a community of the redeemed and the sphere of grace and redemption. I do not want to set the one against the other or to say that the one replaces the other.

  11. I find it unhelpful when Pastors teach/preach, especially in Reformed circles, about the Gen 2:18 text in a way that implies that the sole meaning of the said text is the marriage institution.

    I am not even convinced the marriage theme is its primary meaning*.

    *Is it possible that culture wars have made it difficult to do clear and comprehensive exegesis?

  12. Regarding Paul and celibacy or singleness: instead of being in conflict with the Genesis passage it may well be the case that Paul encouraged those who were comfortable being single to remain that way because he foresaw (in fact, knew first hand) the persecution the church would undergo and the stress it would place on families, not that it was the desired state. Just sayin’

    • George,

      I think there’s a lot to commend this view. From 66AD forward things would become increasingly uncomfortable for Christians in the Greco-Roman world. The external (cultural, religious, and sometimes civil) pressure didn’t ease until after the mid-4th century.

  13. Dr. Clark,

    I don’t think Calvin and Brian Kammerzelt diverge in any way. Calvin recognizes (as does the Kammerzelt) that Genesis 2:18 does carry with it a component of marriage, but before even admitting this, Calvin remarks that God is speaking of man’s social nature:

    “The commencement, therefore, involves a general principle, that man was formed to be a social animal.”

    In other words, Calvin says explicitly he takes it to mean that man was created to be a social creature, but there is an element in Gen 2:18 that addresses marriage. I don’t see Kammerzelt and Calvin in tension here. Would you mind explaining how you do?

  14. James,

    I think Dr. Clark is primarily concerned about a secondary theme in Kammerzelt’s statement: that of equating a human community with the church. Man can find solace in human communities even when he is an unbeliever.

Comments are closed.