Do Single Christian Men Owe Marriage to Single Christian Moms?

It always amazes me just how much of modern churches’ contempt for men could be resolved simply by having good theology.

One of Dalrock’s latest blog posts is a critique of an old entry by Sam Parkison that essentially shames Christian men for not eagerly marrying single mothers. As usual, Dalrock provides very biting practical criticism. But as a theologian, I thought it was interesting how the author’s unwarranted disrespect for men proceeds from basic theological errors.  In other words, even if you don’t like being involved in contemporary politics and social conflicts–and many Christians do not–simply being a faithful Christian who understands his Savior’s teachings is going to prevent you from adopting worldly philosophies like this.

And just to be clear, I don’t disagree with the message stated in Parkison’s title–that Christian men should consider the single mothers in their church. Some such women may be a good choice for some men, and men should genuinely consider whether that’s the case in their own circumstances. That said, I do take issue with the author’s preening contempt for any criticism of single mothers–a contempt that effectively eliminates true consideration in favor of indiscriminate pursuit.

So without further ado, here are the theological errors in his three reasons he thinks “Christian men should pursue Christian single moms for marriage.”

“1. Single Christian moms are as pure as the sinless Son of God, which is more than you deserve in a wife.”

Here, Parkison confuses righteousness coram deo (before God) with righteousness coram mundo (before the world.)  Before God, single Christian moms are indeed pure due to the imputed righteousness of Christ, which he mentions several times in the piece. But in this very same sentence, he judges Christian men coram mundo when he indicates that they don’t deserve such a wife.  After all, coram deo, Christian men are likewise pure & perfect. Accordingly, they truly deserve a spotless bride just as much as Jesus Christ does. In other words, Parkison is making an apples-to-oranges comparison here.

What if we make an apples-to-apples comparison? Well, coram deo, there is no judgment to be made, for all the faithful are pure & perfect while all the unfaithful are totally depraved. That is precisely why Christians, when considering whether someone would make a good wife (or husband), always do so coram mundo. Coram deo, Even the penitent but struggling prostitute is just as pure as the sinless Son of God. That doesn’t mean she would make a good wife.

As long as one thinks a man should actually evaluate a woman as a prospective wife rather than marrying completely indiscriminately, then it must be done coram mundo. And as long as any such evaluation is going to take place, then men are going to prefer debt-free virgins without tattoos, all other things being equal. The author desperately tries to tie that male preference for virginity to pimply 17-year-olds at youth camp, but as I’ve written before, that preference is rooted in natural law, biological reality, and God’s Word–not in vanity as the author asserts. This God-given preference cannot and should not be overwritten by worldly philosophies, and none of the author’s deceptive rhetoric changes anything on that count.

“2. Single Christian moms shouldn’t be punished for rightly responding to their sin.”

This is a peculiar point, as the author doesn’t describe any behavior that actually fits this description. Nobody is punishing single moms for repenting of their lives of fornication. Nobody is punishing single moms for refusing to murder their babies. The closest he comes is his contention that, “Quite often, single moms have an easier time finding men who are willing to be with them out in the world than they do in the Church.”

First, I do want to point out that what started as “men should consider marrying single moms” in the title and shifted to “men should pursue single moms” in his thesis statement has now become “men are punishing single moms by not marrying them.” That boom you just heard was from the goalposts flying by at Mach 2.

But theologically speaking, where in Scripture does God promise us that our faith will never lead to hardship in life? I can recall abundant promises to the contrary, but never that one. Perhaps the author specifically objects to those hardships coming on account of Christians, but once again, this is a confusion of the two kinds of righteousness. Natural consequences of sin do not suddenly cease even among Christians. For example, if your pastor confesses before the congregation that he has molested children at the church and publicly repents of his sin, it’s not “punishing him for rightly responding to his sin” to remove him from his office. On the contrary, its the responsibility of the congregation to do so because he has proven himself unfit for that office despite having the imputed righteousness of Christ.  As before, one must judge coram mundo rather than coram deo. If we are required to make such judgments even for ecclesial offices, how much more must we do so when it comes to civil offices?

Christian men are required to judge wisely when it comes to choosing a mother for their children because their choice is going to bear profound consequences for their offspring. Setting aside the small minority of widows, single moms have demonstrated poor judgement by either choosing a terrible man or discarding a good man from their home. Just as when men choose their wives, women choosing to fornicate has grave consequences for their own children–depriving them of having a father in their lives. Men must consider such poor judgment when deciding whether any given single mom would make a good mother for the children they would have together.  It’s not a question of whether the single mother has repented, but of whether she has developed good character in the meantime–because she clearly didn’t have it in the past. And the truly repentant single mother isn’t going to balk at that assessment.  Her repentance means she has already recognized her own character flaws as such and confessed them before God.

“3. Marrying single Christian moms demonstrates the gospel, which is what marriage is supposed to do.”

This is probably the most atrocious theological error of the bunch because it demonstrates such a misunderstanding of the Gospel itself.

Now, strictly speaking, as written, this point is actually more-or-less correct. The Bride of Christ is not pure and virginal on her own account, but because of the gracious gift of Christ.  The Christian man who is similarly gracious to a single mother in this way is indeed demonstrating the gospel (provided he is also being gracious to his future children, as explained in the previous point.)

But the problem is that Parkison has already removed grace from the picture. After all, he has already described Christian men’s collective failure to marry single moms as “punishment.”  In other words, he sees marriage as something that Christian men owe single moms rather than a gracious gift. You can see the same attitude in his faulty contention that single Christian moms are more than Christian men deserve.  You can see it every time he sneers at men for caring about virginity–as though the sins of single mom aren’t anything truly damaging in the first place.

The Gospel that Parkison portrays in his proposed unions is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By expelling the gravity of sin, it has altogether expelled grace by heavily implying that single moms have no need of it in the first place. Dalrock is quite right in explaining “Parkison dismisses their graciousness by pretending it wasn’t gracious at all! Parkison is stealing other men’s graciousness for himself.”

The reason the Gospel is good news is because our sins were already bad news. We don’t do anyone any favors by trying to minimize or ignore that bad news. Calls for Christian men to simply ignore the sins of Christian women because “the Gospel!” is effectively a denial of the Atonement. God did not simply ignore our sins because they weren’t really a big deal. They were a big enough deal that His Son had to die to pay for them, and He forgives us at unfathomable cost. That’s the wonderful grace we receive as Christians, for which it is our joyous duty to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him. And it is indeed a grace we should share with one another by forgiving as we have been forgiven. But you can’t do that by pretending sin doesn’t matter.

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13 Responses to Do Single Christian Men Owe Marriage to Single Christian Moms?

  1. gdgm+ says:

    Thanks, Mr. Cochran.

  2. Pingback: Hate the Sin, Flatter the Sinner? | The 96th Thesis

  3. Bob Sponge says:

    Matt, do you have idea why Parkinson’s view is so common among evangelicals? Why is the church so effective at producing spineless, pussy-whipped white knights?

    • Matt says:

      Great question. I’m inclined to think that primary problem is simple worldliness–that Western culture has a major problem with emasculation and Christian members of that culture bring the problems into their congregations. It’s not like there’s any shortage of secular soy boys who would take the same views minus the Christian veneer.

      That said, there may be some ways in which poor or incomplete teaching in our churches is exacerbating that problem instead of mitigating it. After all, I get the impression that the problem is slightly worse in churches. I’ll need to think about that some more and give it its own blog post pretty soon here.

      • Caleb says:

        There is a flaw in the whole premise in opinion. For a child to be conceived, both Men and Women have to sin. They sin in equal numbers as well, for every mother that has a child out of wedlock, there is a man who has had that child out of wedlock as well.

        Men, for the most part, don’t raise the child. If they do get the custody of the child and raise the child, they are not expected to do that by themselves, even if they have committed the very same sin. Like a Women who marries a man with a child, there is no stigma attached to that, but for marrying a woman with a child, well the man is white knight or soy-boy for doing that?

        Also, women and men who have a lot of sex, tend to use contraception. A woman can make one mistake and get pregnant and can be judged to be a whore. The part which most men don’t get about women being contrite is that the child was produced from that act and the mother dearly loves the child. It can be emotionally difficult for a mother to regret and feel contrite for having her own child? It gives rise to a wide variety of emotions which men find hard to comprehend.

        • Matt says:

          Caleb,

          When Bob spoke of white knights, he was referencing Parkinson’s view. It’s not the marrying that’s the primary problem (as I said in the post, some such women can be a good match for some men.) The primary problem is the pedastalization–the pretense that the womens’ sins are nothing of the kind and that they are far far too good for any man, whom they must actually condescend to be with.

          And while it’s certainly true that both the man and the woman involved have sinned, its not really germane to this particular issue because Christians aren’t falling all over themselves pretending the men are innocent. But regarding men and women sinning in equal numbers, that’s not actually accurate. Hookup culture is generally made up of a smaller group of men hooking up with a larger group of women. Hypergamy and polygamy complement one another in their own twisted way–its the typical king/harem, rockstar/groupies dynamic at work.

          And yes, there is a double-standard with respect to stigma, and it’s not exactly fair. It is, however, load-bearing for civilization because it proceeds from differences in male and female nature. Trying to balance the scales by expunging shame from women has proven highly destructive. (I talk about this dynamic in more detail here: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/?p=249)

        • Caleb says:

          Theologically speaking, it is a complex question. Not only did Christ stop a mob from stoning a woman but also spoke to a woman with 5 husbands in private, and told her about her sin. Christ was often furious with and condemned hypocrisies of Pharisees and that fits very well with the liberal theology.

          You also wrote, “Whether it’s “just as sinful for men as it is for women, I neither know nor care. I do not know because I cannot measure such sinfulness with enough precision to say whether it’s exactly the same.”

          Thing is that you do know and you do care about this. Women are considered to be gatekeepers of culture. Women not only have a profound influence on their sons but they also choose what sort of men they want to marry and that in turn influences the behavior of men. If you really want to safeguard civilization, one needs to remove no-fault divorce laws, maybe even jail the adulterers because of how it affects family with family being the moral foundation on which society is built. People talk about bringing back shame when cultural and dressing standards have changed a lot and by a mile.

          My issue with your article is that women in Hookup culture, usually do not become mothers and find God. This may be a bad example but most mothers I know are a bit like Bristol Palin. They can be young, naive and maybe even arrogant at times, born to Christian parents, who are conservative and pro-life. Parents often don’t criticize or shun their children as much(For Shame to be bought back this is essential and most Eastern nations do this and parents are life-line to most kids in most cases), they might even think their daughter will live responsibly now. That would describe most single moms in the Church I think.

          There is a delicate balance between mercy and punishment and I do not know which way scales should be tipped or even how it should be balanced.

        • Matt says:

          Caleb,

          On the question of whether it’s just as sinful as men as for women, let me clarify:

          If we’re comparing coram deo (before God), then the question is essentially which one is more offensive to God. On that subject, I stand by my contention that I don’t know and don’t care enough to try putting together a theology which might explain it.

          If we’re comparing coram mundo (before the world), then the question is essentially which one causes more harm. And yes, you’re correct that on that question, I both know and care. Both cause a lot of personal misery, but civilization can survive rampant male promiscuity far better than it can rampant female promiscuity because the latter is far more corrosive to the formation of families.

          And I agree with you that shame is absolutely key to this whole issue (I wrote more about that here: https://thefederalist.com/2014/04/03/the-cultivation-of-shame/).

          As for balancing mercy and punishment, I’m more inclined to think that we shouldn’t be balancing them against one another at all–as though we have to blunt one for the sake of the other. The Law should never be softened for the sake of mercy, but neither should the Gospel be softened for the sake of justice. In my experience, if you teach both without diluting either, shame will naturally abound, but the ones who repent will find the necessary relief from that shame in the forgiveness of their sins. They’ll also know that their forgiveness came at a price and honor the one who payed it. The problems start cropping up when we try to manipulate feelings by moderating our message. That’s when we get into “my sin doesn’t matter” and “no one could possibly forgive me” territory.

  4. Peter Vincini says:

    Only touched upon is the stress and sometimes total disruption caused by the biological father’s presence in family. Visitation and unwanted, improper parenting is one. Child support is another, especially when it comes to the later years and college tuition is to be paid. Most important is the relationship between the biological father and the wife. They were intimate and the past is never the past. Many times have I seen the wife and the child’s father at an out-of-town soccer tournament without the husband present, and wondered…

    • Matt says:

      You’re right, Peter. I hadn’t really thought of that part of it, but that extra complication to the family dynamic can indeed be burdensome. It’s not an insurmountable challenge, but one would do well to count the cost of it while they’re making their decision.

  5. Tracy Chesney says:

    Matthew, considering the topics you are covering on your blog, I thought you might be interested in this question, or maybe more of an observation. On the topic of out of wedlock pregnancy, I’ve noticed that it is not uncommon for Christians: laypeople, pastors, church workers, to focus only on whether or not the mother keeps, adopts out, or aborts her child. While this is an obvious life changing question, it’s not uncommon to leave out of the discussion the serious contemplation of what to do about the baby’s father. I’m of the mind that God in those circumstances favors a shot-gun wedding so to speak, barring a situation where the father might be a hazard to his family (drug addict, physically abusive, refuses to marry the women he impregnants, or the like). My sense is that, once a couple, regardless of how well they know each other, makes a family together, they ought to commit to being a healthy, married family for the sake of their child, regardless of the less than ideal circumstances. Yet conservative Christians have said to me that compatibility, and making sure the father meets the standard of marriageable material is still in play, even though it appears to me that once there is a child in the womb, the ship has sailed on holding out for your highest standard of suitability with your mate (you did indeed already mate), the obligation then being to give the child an intact family. This topic has really needled me as someone who did find myself pregnant in a very new relationship, and did make the decision to marry and to make that marriage work for the sake of the children, 32 years ago. It’s been a truly difficult struggle at times, but I never doubted that it was my (our) duty to make this work, and the Lord has blessed in many ways, so I find it disturbing to hear push back from Christians on this. What particularly prompted me to make note of this is a book I read recently, Sexuality Mentality, Creating a Culture of Biblical Integrity, by CPH. In it, the author is very forthcoming about the decisions she faced regarding the life of her child when faced with an unplanned, out of wedlock pregnancy in a very new relationship (sounds familiar). While she did a wonderful job in that arena, she made only a fleeting comment about the father of her child, and her apparent decision to not marry him. I found it astounding that she, now married to a Lutheran pastor, and writing a book on “creating a culture of biblical intergrity” would fail to mention what God’s Word had to say about the duty of father’s and mothers to provide a family for their child in this situation, but merely said, “I didn’t end up marrying ______’s father …” …but she married her neighbor instead. The end. When I heard her interviewed concerning her story, I never heard anyone ask her about the father. How are we confessional Lutherans missing the profundity of the question of what is our obligation to marry when we go against God’s created order and procreate outside the bonds of marriage? I’m realizing that, in our rightly anti-abortion focus in the church, we simply don’t consider this a topic worthy of serious contemplation, and almost assume an out of wedlock pregnancy will end in single motherhood. Should it not be a given that the church would strongly encourage such couples to marry, even have the expectation that they would, and then help them along the way in that marriage? Thanks for indulging my long comment. I am curious to hear your thoughts.

    • Matt says:

      Thank you for the comment, Tracy.

      I agree with you. Part of the reason I think the church tends to overlook the father question is because we’re worldly. Our culture devalues fathers, thinking that they’re not particularly significant, and so we tend to as well. And yes, the pro-life aspect also influences it–we’re often scared of inadvertently tempting a young mother to abort her child. But kids need both of their parents, and marriage is God’s provision for that very real need–whether or not the marriage comes after the pregnancy.

      I look at the choice to exclude the father from the household as something akin to amputation. There are certainly circumstances dire enough where it’s warranted, but it should always be a last resort because it is tragic in and of itself. It should never be a matter of preference or of holding out for someone better. That ship has already sailed.

      What’s more, there is already a lifelong bond created between the mother and the father through what has happened. Sex itself makes a couple one-flesh, and they will always mean something different to one another because of it. But more to the point, he will always be the father of her child and she will always be the mother of his; that will *never* change. Through marriage, that lifelong bond can become a blessing to everyone involved–especially the child.

      And yes, that’s true even when it’s a new relationship. Our customs are that marriage should only come after a long development of romance and emotional intimacy, but customs are not moral obligations. Providing for our children’s needs, however, is very much a moral obligation. And really, historically speaking, our customs are something of an outlier. Through much of history, people have gotten married because they believed the pairing to be advantageous for one reason or another, with romance and emotional intimacy, if they came, eventually proceeding *from* the marriage rather than preceding it. Changing up the order may be unusual in our culture, but that’s the challenge we need to embrace in the case of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

      The best thing is for someone close to sit down with both parents and help them understand what it means to take responsibility. And as part of that, the families and Christian congregations of the parents should let them know that they’ll be doing everything they can to help them grow into their new roles. After all, being the right thing to do doesn’t make it any less daunting or challenging. But its the kind of challenge that can forge both parents into better people.

      And congratulations, Tracy, on rising to that challenge yourself. May God bless that decision in your life and your family’s.

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