Thursday, January 27, 2011

Disappearing Marriage!

Even though hotly contested today, anyone with basic common sense will confess that marriage between a man and woman is the backbone of civilization. Break or discourage this union and the social house of cards will come tumbling down.

Recent data from the Pew Charitable Trust national survey on marriage just came out, and the trends are discouraging. Marriage is disappearing even as it is redefined. In 1968 72% of adults were married. Today only 52% are. In 1978 28% thought marriage was becoming obsolete. Today almost 40% hold that conviction. Almost 40% of births are to a single parent. This does not portend good news for the rising generation. Lacking fathers there will be a substantial collapse of self-control, capacity for compassion, and ability to defer gratification, virtues that most social research ascribes to the active presence of fathers.

Forty years ago 68% of twenty somethings were married. Today only 26% are.  Discouraged by a diminished role for men in marriage and society, single men are reluctant to pursue young ladies. "What do I have to offer?" he thinks.

The deferral of first marriage to a later age is also responsible for falling fertility rates. For our population to avoid decline, the fertility rate must be at or above 2.1 children per female. We, as well as most industrialized societies, are at or below this level.

In his book The Empty Cradle, Phillip Longman notes the lone exception to these trends...patriarchy. By that he doesn't mean abuse by tyrannical males. He means marriages where  fatherhood is valued, where men do what God created them to do; protect, lead, and provide for their families.

If this is true the gospel is the ultimate solution to these social problems. For the gospel encourages male servant leadership in both church and home.

As always, you observations are appreciated.


  1. Chris Frick1/27/11, 6:41 PM

    Hi Pastor Bill,
    Very interesting post. I do not understand the last paragraph though. Maybe mispellings (where/were)?

  2. Anonymous member of GCF3/24/11, 2:06 PM

    I remember when you provided this information at Veritas several weeks ago. I generally agree with your conclusions but do not think they are true across the board, especially in our church. I think that young single men at our church are doing and have done a decent job at pursuing godly young women. However, I know of several instances within the last year or two in which around half a dozen godly, stable young men have been denied even one date with a young lady they are attempting to pursue. I feel that this is more of the problem leading other young men to not pursue women in the church. We have some incredible single guys at GCF, who all have good personalities, careers, and spiritual lives, who are simply not given a chance. What else does a young lady expect from at 21 to 27-year-old man?

  3. "A diminished role for men and marriage in society" has probably come about by our culture idolizing that role to begin with, to the point that women felt they needed to fulfill all the traditional male roles to achieve self-worth and identity. So women have pursued education and careers with great gusto and have made progress in those endeavors, sacrificing the often all-consuming call of motherhood in various ways, whether by having no children, fewer children or paying others to care for the children. Stay-at-home moms give the prime years of their lives to raising children and making a home. Wives are called to support their husbands in their external/public calling and domain, which gives them less time to develop their own talents or to serve in a more public way. The virtues necessary to serve others in hidden ways for no economic or status gain requires steadfast faith in the God who promises reward for what is done in secret, the reward being the furthering of God's kingdom, not a woman's status or finances! But our culture so greatly values things like independence, status, wealth acquisition, identity-as-giftedness that it is is getting more difficult for women to choose a mostly private life at home, investing herself in husband, children and others with no guarantees of fruitfulness. It's kind of like the argument against putting all one's eggs in one feels risky, and, in fact, it is risky. Another reason why our identity must be 100% in Christ, not in what we accomplish whether as public or private persona.

  4. In response to the anonymous comment March 24th:
    I agree that this is an issue within the church, and it's not right that Christian young ladies often expect more from a young man than is realistic. I discovered awhile back that I even had that problem (good thing God changed that BEFORE I fell for my "Mr. Right", because my husband is not perfect and I was able to go into our relationship without expecting him to be). But I don’t think this is so much about the guy himself (assuming he is mature and godly with a good career, etc) as it is an issue of Christian women’s standards not being quite where they should be. While trying to not have their standards too low, I think a lot of young Christian women inadvertently set them too high. As Dave once said in a sermon on this topic, "You can't expect him to be a John Piper or a Bill Farley or a CJ Mahaney-- he's 23!" (I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea). There are definitely certain qualities that are necessary in a good, Godly husband, I'm not trying to diminish that, but it's important to set one's standards in this area at the right level.
    As it relates to the article we’re commenting on, men are not the whole problem, and I don’t think Bill was suggesting that they are. I think he was simply stating that lack of strong male leadership is a big part of the problem, which it is. Also, as I understand it (Bill, correct me if I’m wrong) he was talking more of the decline of marriage in secular culture than in the church (though it’s a problem in the church, as well).
    Bottom line, men are not the whole problem, and neither are women. We are all a mess, we all contribute to the problem, and Christ is the only solution.