Entries Tagged as 'Culture'

Same-Sex Marriage in California

The news networks and internet are buzzing about May 15’s decision by the California Supreme Court striking down a California law that had previously banned the practice of homosexual marriage in the state. Now this does not tell the complete story because California grants registered “domestic partners” very similar benefits that are afforded to married couples (inheritance rights, insurance, etc.). While the initial effects of this decision particularly for the rights of homosexual couples may not change much for people in California, it is the foundation of the decision that may produce the most long-lasting effects.

The California Supreme Court declared that marriage is a fundamental right for all people and no distinction can be made regarding sexual orientation. The majority opinion stated, “We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.” If it is a fundamental right to form a family relationship defined as marriage, then the impact of this decision could be far-reaching.

First, homosexual couples who marry in California will ultimately move to other states. Those states that do not recognize homosexual marriage will face lawsuits attempting to force them to recognize their marriages as fundamental rights. Most of these cases will probably end up in their respective state supreme courts, and those justices will certainly be weighing the arguments of the California court.

Second, the definition of marriage as a fundamental right may ultimately lead to a stamp of approval for polygamous, polyamorous, incestuous, and underage marriages. In California, marriage has already been redefined; therefore, the next case may be to define marriage no longer as between two individuals but to include three, four, or more. While this case does not directly equate such relationships to marriage, it opens the door to these arguments.

Third, the court overturned a statute that had been previously approved through democratic process by the popular vote of the people of California. The “votes” of four judges overturned the votes of millions of citizens. Thus, we have seen the will of the people overturned by the will of the court. In our democratic republic with representation appointed by the vote of the people, this could have lasting consequences regarding judicial activism across the country.

Let us not think that this is an issue only affecting the West Coast. It is in our neighborhoods and our churches. The debate over homosexuality is alive and well in the Christian community—just look at the new books on the subject in the last few years. For Christians, it comes down to an interpretation of Scripture. However, there are some who attempt to interpret Scripture to support homosexuality (and ultimately homosexual marriage) as well. At the risk of sounding self-serving, I recently presented a paper evaluating the hermeneutics of those who attempt to support homosexuality from Scripture. You can find the audio here.

Oprah: What to do with her?

If you have even a tiny part of your ear turned toward secular media then you have heard of Oprah Winfrey’s latest belief system, which, essentially is merely a culmination of her spiritual journey over the years. Because of this there has been a lot of talk about boycotting Oprah among Christian circles. I’m not sure that boycotting is the route that we should take. I think pastors and Christian leaders, among others, need to keep a keen eye on who and what Oprah endorses because of her tremendous influence and power. We need to educate our people as to why who and what she endorses are wrong. Believe it or not, there are many housewives and stay-at-home moms that watch her daily. Take a few minutes to watch this video. The beginning and ending is a little corny but the middle part is well done. After watching it, finish reading this post below the link.

This is what Tim Keller calls our ‘self-salvation project.” (The Reason for God, p.234) The bottom line in this belief system is that people do not want to believe that they are sinful. Additionally, they would like to believe that they can earn their salvation through themselves. This belief shouldn’t surprise us since we live in a culture of “earning.” Most everything that we have “earned” is ours, our society believes. This is especially true to the unbiblical, hard-working, self-sacrificing American person. This belief, and way of life, is completely antithetical to what the Gospel teaches. The Gospel teaches that man is sinful and that we cannot earn our salvation through ourselves – not that man is good and we can save ourselves.

Oprah is essentially teaching what every human being deep down desires – to “put God in our debt” as Keller states, and to earn our way to Him. That way He is in our debt and deserves to give us the sinful desires of our hearts. Oprah’s heresy is not just something that we should casually pass over. It is something that we need to interact with, pick apart, and educate to our people because the core of her belief system slaps God in the face and spits at Jesus while he lays stretched out on the cross.

Here is the question to debate: How should we go about educating our people about Oprah?

Christian Books and Christian Retail

Let me set the stage. You are an executive at a major Christian book publisher. The mother of one of the most recognized and influential Southern Baptists comes to you with a book proposal. She wants to publish a book on parenting. You think, “should we publish this book?” It seems like a no-brainer question, right? The author will have instant name recognition, and the book will probably top the CBA‘s bestsellers list if you publish it. The only problem is that the author of this book is Lynne Spears, the mother of Britney Spears. The publisher is Thomas Nelson.

Now, I do not want to criticize Thomas Nelson too severely here. They have published edifying works that I have on my bookshelves. They have published authors that I love and respect–people like John MacArthur and Wayne Mack. And to be honest, I commend them for rethinking and delaying the publication of Lynne Spears’s book. I do wonder, however, why they considered it in the first place. I am certain that they are not the only Christian publisher that would have seriously considered publishing it. None should have, though.

Also, I’m not trying to go all TMZ on another member of the Spears family. I’m just saying that as my wife and I are preparing to become parents, this potential work would not make the short-list for books that I would want to read in order to make sure I raise my child in the fear and admonition of the Lord. And without having read it, I am still confident that I would not recommend it if I were still selling books. Contrary to popular belief, you can judge many books by their covers (trust me, I can send you a list), and you can usually judge them based upon what you know of the author.

I love the Christian book industry. I really do. This is not meant to be a polemic against it, but a caution for it.

I worked in the field for several years at one of the finest Christian bookstores in America, and I had the privilege of working for one of the kindest, most connected, and well respected guys in the industry. I loved working there because the company represented much of what is right in the industry. The way the owner of this store treated his employees and customers put the “Christian” in “Christian Retail.”

As much as I enjoyed my time in the industry, I also saw some things that just made me shake my head. At one point, I worked keying in orders for books. For months, I poured over every page of every catalog we received from every Christian publisher. I read descriptions of books and often thought, “how is that edifying in the least?”

And that question is the crux of the issue. Christian publishers should–SHOULD–exist primarily for edification. Should they still make a profit? Absolutely. But their purpose should primarily be that of edification, and I will daresay that the bulk of what makes it to Christian retail stores fails that test. A book on parenting by the mother of the poster-child for wayward behavior likely doesn’t meet that criteria, and plenty of others that make it to the shelves fail that test as well.

Christian publishers and retailers have an obligation to God, and to their customers, to ask this question before all others. Before they even consider whether or not the book will sell, they need to ask, “will it edify?”

n.b. Before the Witness boys start sending me a bunch of emails questioning my manhood for reading People on a regular basis, let me alleviate your fears. Someone forwarded me the link. A hat tip to that person. You know who you are :)

Tim Challies on the Death of Shame

Tim writes:

Over the past few years, Aileen and I have continually returned to the question of why so many young people these days seem unwilling or unable to grow up. It is a question that has confused us, especially as we look to many of the young people we know. There was a time when young people seemed eager to grow up, to mature, and to head out into the world to make their mark on it. Or that is how we remember it (we were, after all, married at 21 and parents by 23). But those people now seem to be the exception more than the rule. More and more, it seems, young people (and increasingly older young people) are choosing to stay home, to stay in colleges, to earn a second or third or fourth degree. They are, it seems, refusing to grow up.
To help our thinking on this issue, I’ve been reading The Death of the Grown-up, a fascinating book by Diana West and one that seeks to answer the question of “Where have all the grown-ups gone?” The book’s subtitle is “How America’s Arrested Development is Bringing Down Western Civilization.” I suppose that says it all. West has studied this phenomenon and has determined that it is one that is going to have serious repercussions. The lines between child and adult are growing increasingly blurry. I hope to write a review of the book next week.
One section of the book that has caught my attention deals with the notion of “shame.” Shame is a bit of a tricky concept, I think, as it seems to me to be both negative and positive. The Bible makes it clear that, in their innocence, before they invited sin into the world, Adam and Eve were “naked and unashamed.” Written after the fact and written at a time when people could hardly conceive of nakedness as being anything but shameful, these words are clearly meant to make people think and to consider a world without shame. Shame, after all, in at least one of its forms, is product of guilt. Shame comes about as we realize our guilt or our inadequacy. Shame comes as we compare ourselves to a better standard or even as we compare ourselves to another standard (which is, more often than not, other people). So while it is a product of sin and a necessity only in an imperfect world, it is also a gift, of sorts. Shame is an aspect of God’s common grace that keeps us from expressing ourselves in ways that would otherwise result in serious consequences.
But shame is becoming increasingly foreign in our culture. We hear of the way teens act these days—with 13 year old girls propositioning their male friends and dispensing sexual favors on the school bus; with men and boys alike proudly discussing just how much pornography they consume; with the sexual preferences of movie stars being discussed in the evening news; with commercials for sexual enhancers constantly playing on television. Where has shame gone?
West traces the decline of shame to the death of the notion of obscenity, especially in the world of art. “By the time the courts, in effect, declared obscenity was dead, they had killed something vital to a healthy society: the faculty of judgment that attempts to distinguish between what is obscene and what is not obscene—the avowedly ‘grown-up’ sensibility of an outmoded authority figure who had long relied on a proven hierarchy of taste and knowledge until it was quite suddenly leveled. From this leveling came another casualty: society’s capacity, society’s willingness, to make even basic distinctions between trash and art.”
This has led to all manner of offensive, vulgar art being paraded in front of us, even if that art is just plain bad. The question is not, as it should be, “is it good art?” Rather, people simply cry “censorship” and allow anything to be displayed, no matter how vulgar, no matter how devoid of artistic merit. We can no longer distinguish between trash and art. Exempting art from censorship laws, effectively concluding that there is no such thing as obscenity, has had consequences.
“Once the law balked at recognizing obscenity, the populace began to doubt the very basis for shame. With no legal, institutional support for consensus, little wonder the bottom fell out from under morality.” As obscenity became a thing of the past, so too did it’s necessary consequence: shame. Shame is increasingly missing from our culture. We do things, watch things, enjoy things, participate in things that at any other time and in any other place would be considered shameful. Politicians show little remorse, little shame, when their dirty sexual deeds are exposed. Parents cavort with children, acting like children. “Shamelessness sheds light on why it is that American matrons are more likely to host sex-toy parties than Tupperware parties; why the Major Leagues showcase Viagra ads at home plate; why a presidential fund-raiser for GOP candidates includes a well-endowing—that is, contributing—porn star and pornographer; and why at grocery store checkouts shoppers can check out “hot sex tips” along with a loaf of bread. We have all learned—or at least we have all been taught—that the mental blush is superceded by the genital tingle.”
The paradox is something Christians know well. “Less restraint doesn’t necessarily deliver greater freedom.” It should be not surprising that the “land of the free” is also the land with more laws than just about any other nation in the world. With rules comes freedom—not with a lack of restraint. Humans being what we are, we rely on rules to keep us acting within the bounds of morality and within the bounds of shame. When these rules are tossed out and when shame disappears, so too does our willingness to restrain ourselves. With no concept of obscenity there is no shame; with no shame, anything goes. “In a shameless culture…self restraint is continually undermined.”
“By the twenty-first century, shame and embarrassment have zero association with sexuality—or so we are endlessly, numbingly instructed—and, correspondingly, an infantile lack of behavioral restraint may be observed in everything from freak dancing, to ‘super-size’ eating, to McMansion-building. Without the concept of obscenity, without reason for shame, the ‘self’ in self-control sees no greater, larger, socially significant point in holding back.”
What has happened to shame? Well, it appears that shame has been put to death. “Culturally speaking, obscenity is all but legally obsolete, and shame is a kind of secular sin—a symptom of ‘hang-ups,’ of repression, of inhibition, of liberty lost.”
The only thing our society tells us to be ashamed of, it seems, is shame itself.

Redefining the Fairytale: Which One of Us is Supposed to be Rescued?

 sleeping beautyMy wife and I went to see the new Disney movie "Enchanted" (which at the time was the #1 movie in America). The concept of the movie is that cartoon fairytale characters would stumble into real life in New York City. While the crossing of fairytale characters into real life provided the promised comedy, it also provided something I did not expect, the redefining of the classic fairytale along modern cultural lines. Who knew that gender identity issues would show up in a Disney fairytale? Did you know that the damsel in distress can also be the sword-wielding heroine?

 Here's the basic story: Giselle is a pretty maiden who lives in the fairytale land of "Andalasia." She meets her handsome Prince Edward who sweeps her off her feet and prepares to marry her. Yet, Edward's evil step-mother, Queen Narissa knows this union will remove her from the throne, so she sends Giselle into the real world. In NYC she meets Robert. Robert is a single dad with a young daughter who was abandoned in the past by his wife. Robert has been jaded by his abandonment, so he believes that fairytale notions of love are wrong and things must be taken really slow. Robert wants to ask his longtime girlfriend Nancy to marry him, but his encounters with Giselle quickly cause him to fall for her. Prince Edward heads into NYC to rescue his damsel. This causes Queen Narissa to come to NYC as a dragon to kill Giselle and make sure she never takes the throne…

 There were several scenes that caught my attention. Early on in the movie when attempting to tell his young daughter that he intends to become engaged Robert tries to smooth this conversation over by giving his daughter a gift. She wanted a fairytale book, but instead she received a book about "strong" women like Rosa Parks, Golda Meir, etc. Robert tells his daughter that fairy tales are not real and that he wants his daughter to grow up to be like these women. He says that his girlfriend Nancy is like these women. Almost immediately I was able to guess the conclusion to the movie… Could it be that the damsel will become the hero?

 My fears were realized. When the evil step-mother comes to NYC she turns into a fierce dragon who seeks to kill Giselle. When Robert attempts to stand in the way to protect and rescue his maiden Giselle, the dragon grabs him and begins to climb a NYC skyscraper. Giselle grabs a sword and pursues to which the dragon replies, "what an unusual twist to our story." The dragon then looks at Robert in her hand and says, "That must make you our damsel in distress." Admittedly Giselle does not end up slaying the dragon. She causes the dragon to fall and uses the sword to keep Robert from plummeting to his death. But there is a redefinition of the classic fairytale roles. The fragile maiden in need of rescue has now become the strong sword-wielding heroine, and the leading man has become the damsel in distress in need of rescue. This may be Disney's way of telling women they can "have it all." You can be both the princess who is swept off her feet by a man and the heroine who rescues that man.

 This redefinition is perfectly in keeping with the current cultural trends that confuse gender identity, roles in marriage, and seek to present an egalitarian view of life. My biggest problem with this redefinition is that it corrupts a biblical view of marriage, and a corrupted view of marriage is a corrupted view of the gospel. Peter Leithart says that "G. K. Chesterton was fond of pointing out that there is often more good theology and ethics in fairy tales than in some thick books of theology. In 'Sleeping Beauty,' we have a wonderful picture of the work of Christ on behalf of His church. In Walt Disney's animated version of that tale, Prince Philip climbs a jagged black mountain, cuts through deadly thorns with his sword, and grapples with the dragon-witch to rescue his beloved. A more fitting picture of Jesus' work can hardly be imagined. Jesus appears in the Gospels not as an Oriental guru — a proto-Gandhian proclaiming love and nonviolence — but as a princely Lover, passionately willing to suffer all things to rescue His Bride from her captor (Leithart, The Kingdom and the Power, p. 35)." This prince crushes the head of the dragon and rescues His bride (Eph. 5).

 Though teaching young girls and young boys that there could be valuable lessons to learn from the classic fairy tales certainly has its pitfalls. There are dangers in our girls and boys expecting a fairy tale version of emotional love, "being swept off your feet," looking for "prince charming," etc. Yet, if put in the appropriate context the classic fairytale is certainly touching on something that is true of the way a man should fight for and protect his bride. This should be taught to our young boys and girls because it is biblical.

      My wife and I have a beautiful 16 month old little girl named "Maddy," and we talk often about ways we can train her right now to be feminine. We do not seek to raise her to be fiercely independent. We do seek to raise her as a woman who expects to be taken care of by a man. We talk about how we will deal differently with boys if God blesses us with them. We will let our little boys fall down and pick themselves back up, learn to be tough, learn to be leaders, independent, etc. When Maddy falls down we pick her up, wipe away her tears, tell her it is ok, etc. We will train our boys to take care of women and treat them with respect. We will train our little girls to expect a man to be respectful to them and take care of them. We do this because we believe that marriage roles are a picture of the Gospel. Tom Ascol said at the Building Bridges Conference, "Marriage is to put the Gospel on display. It is a living parable of what God has done in Christ in saving sinners. Husbands, wives you have a role to play in this drama! Wives you get to live the role of the one who gets rescued. Husband you get to live the role of the one who got murdered in doing the rescue." Given this biblical picture it is not surprising that Hollywood wants to redefine the classic fairytale so that the roles are reversed. My fear is that the church is doing it too. Could it be that earlier Disney knew more about gender roles than the contemporary church?
      I pray for my daughter even now that she will find a man who will love her and take care of her the way that Christ loves and protects His church. I also pray daily that she will find the Man who scaled the Black Hill "Calvary", took on the thorns, wielded His sword, and cut off the dragon's head while suffocating to death on the cross. He did that to rescue His Bride and present her clean and blameless. May that TRUE adventure story never be redefined!

Court Protects Doctor’s Belief Concerning “Morning After Pill”


Good news:

Pharmacists in Washington no longer will be required to dispense "morning-after" birth control pills if they have religious objections, at least for the time being.

Check out the story here.


The Top US Conservatives and Liberals…

…according to the Telegraph. I have to say that I think this list isn't quite as accurate as they might like to think it is. Rudy Giuliani is not the most influential US conservative. But I have to be fair, this would not be an easy job. In fact, they admit that

it was far from easy to agree among ourselves as to who to include and in what order. Many readers will dispute a number of those who appear on our lists and no doubt be eager to put forward substitutes.

You can find the lists here.

Divorce and Remarriage: The Betrothal View

I had one of those moments in my class last week that every professor dreams of having (or was that a nightmare—I’m not really sure). There was a moment in my lecture that I clearly communicated something to my students about which most of them had probably never thought. We were studying the issue of divorce and remarriage, and I had been pontificating on the various Christian views on the subject. I saved the two best for last: the Erasmian (or majority) view and the betrothal view.

The Erasmian view of divorce and remarriage holds that divorce is allowable in situations where adultery has taken place (according to the exception clause of Matt 5:32 and 19:9) or when an unbelieving spouse leaves (the so-called Pauline privilege of 1 Cor 7:15). Proponents of the Erasmian view also hold that remarriage is allowed in these cases as well. This is by far the most widely held view of divorce and remarriage in evangelical circles.

The betrothal view also allows for divorce when an unbelieving spouse leaves. However, the betrothal view interprets the exception clause in Matt 5:32 and 19:9 as referring to sexual immorality discovered during the typical one-year betrothal period customary in first century Jewish culture. Thus, the betrothal view does not allow for divorce in cases of adultery after marriage (Note: A slight exception to this stance may allow for divorce in such cases where the guilty party is unrepentant and abandons the innocent spouse and files for divorce. In this situation, the guilty party is exhibiting the behavior of an unbeliever and may be treated as such). The betrothal view never allows for a believer to seek a divorce and does not allow for remarriage in any circumstance unless one of the spouses dies.

When I expressed that I hold the betrothal view and that it does not allow for remarriage unless a spouse dies, there was a collective gasp in the room. Now I know that there are a number of students in my class who agree with me. At the same time, I know that there are a number who disagree. Then there are certainly some who do not know where they stand.

We can certainly discuss this issue in the comments, but let me explain why it is important. The divorce rate in the United States for 2005 (the most recent statistics to come from the US Census Bureau—2006 stats will be available in December) was 48%. In 2001, 21% of all adult American men and 23.1% of all adult American women had been divorced at least once. According to the Barna group, the divorce rate in the church is the same as that among non-believers. This issue is serious, and I believe one reason that so many people just accept the world’s view of divorce is that our churches do not discuss it. Certainly, we have divorce recovery groups and discipleship classes for blended/step-families, but do we confront the issue of divorce on the front end?

Before you go to calling me a legalist and insensitive, let me inform you that divorce has impacted my family in several ways. Thankfully, my parents will be celebrating their 36th anniversary next week; however, so many people in the rest of our family have been impacted by divorce. I am aware of its pain. I am aware of its struggles. But I am also aware of how seriously God takes marriage. Jesus himself said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate" (Matt 19:4-6). When it comes down to it, I would rather my view of divorce and remarriage be shaped by Scripture than by experience (actually, that is how I do theology and ethics as a whole).

For those of you who are not familiar with the betrothal view, I would like for you to consider two pieces available online for a fuller treatment (my summary is entirely too short to get the full understanding). A pastoral viewpoint of the betrothal view is available from John Piper here. An academic viewpoint is available in audio format from David W. Jones (Assoc. Professor of Christian Ethics at SEBTS) here.

In the end, I always tell my students that you must hold your view of divorce and remarriage humbly because you will always make someone mad no matter what view you hold. There are also sincere, Bible-believing Christians and scholars who disagree with me. What I ask is that you give me and the betrothal view a fair hearing.

Convergent Conference

markComing up in September Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary will be hosting The 2007 Convergent Conference. Pastor Mark Driscoll will be one of the featured speakers. He has recently blogged about this event and playfully added that he will not be "drinking, cussing, or sprinkling babies and calling it baptism". He has expressed his gratefulness for this opportunity and his hopes to honor Christ with his message. The event description can be found here. I am eagerly waiting for this event and am especially looking forward to hearing Pastor Driscoll. Event Registration ends September 7th.

Oprah on Marriage

I am currently attempting to finish notes for my upcoming class that I will be teaching at Southwestern Seminary. The class is entitled "The Christian Home" and the catalog description states that it is a "study of the biblical and theological foundations of the Christian home. Students will be equipped to apply sound moral standards in their relationships at home and to build strong families." As a result my life for the last few weeks has been consumed by all things family. Everything I have read deals with the family. All my thoughts have considered family. Even my Sunday School class has been dealing with marriage and family issues. Typically, I keep my resources on marriage and family pretty reliable; however, I found a new one today—Oprah.com. Go ahead, insert snide remark here!

Actually, while perusing CNN.com, I found an article entitled, "Questions to ask before you get married." While linked to CNN, it was attributed to Oprah.com (the author is Susan Piver, not Oprah). Reading the article caused my mind to return to the premarital counseling that my wife and I had with our pastor prior to our wedding (by the way, he required it in order to perform the wedding ceremony). Even though I would not recommend Oprah or her website as a legitimate source for marital counseling, I am encouraged by many of the questions posed in the article. Here is a sample…

Question 1: What percentage of our income are we prepared to spend to purchase and maintain our home on a monthly or annual basis?
Question 2: Who is responsible for keeping our house and yard cared for and organized? Are we different in our needs for cleanliness and organization?
Question 3: How much money do we earn together? Now? In one year? In five years? Ten? Who is responsible for which portion? Now? In one year? Five? Ten?
Question 4: What is our ultimate financial goal regarding annual income, and when do we anticipate achieving it? By what means and through what efforts?
Question 5: What are our categories of expense (rent, clothing, insurance, travel)? How much do we spend monthly, annually, in each category? How much do we want to be able to spend?
Question 6: How much time will each of us spend at work, and during what hours? Do we begin work early? Will we prefer to work into the evening?
Question 7: If one of us doesn't want to work, under what circumstances, if any, would that be okay?
Question 13: What place does the other's family play in our family life? How often do we visit or socialize together? If we have out-of-town relatives, will we ask them to visit us for extended periods? How often?
Question 14: If we have children, what kind of relationship do we hope our parents will have with their grandchildren? How much time will they spend together?
Question 15: Will we have children? If so, when? How many? How important is having children to each of us?
Question 16: How will having a child change the way we live now? Will we want to take time off from work, or work a reduced schedule? For how long? Will we need to rethink who is responsible for housekeeping?
Question 19: Do we share a religion? Do we belong to a church, synagogue, mosque or temple? More than one? If not, would our relationship benefit from such an affiliation?
Question 20: Does one of us have an individual spiritual practice? Is the practice and the time devoted to it acceptable to the other? Does each partner understand and respect the other's choices?

Now I admit that the spiritual questions toward the end get a little hokey, but at least they are being asked. Here are some questions from our premarital counseling with Pastor Bill Bowyer…

1. Have you come to the place in your spiritual life where you are certain that if you were to die today, you would go to heaven?

2. How long have you known your fiancée? On a scale of 1–20, how well would you say you know your future mate?

3. Have you been married before?

4. Why do you want to marry?

5. What do your parents feel about your relationship and this potential marriage?

6. How would you define marital love?

7. What is your opinion on divorce?

8. Are you financially prepared for the financial costs of marriage?

9. What does the statement, "Lordship of Christ" mean? How should this concept affect a marriage?

10. Are you currently building a pure relationship? (i.e., Are you living together? etc.)

11. Can you honestly say that you want God’s perfect will for your life and that this marriage fits in that will?

Those questions came during the first session as well as the following points of a premarital and marital covenant that included…

1. I will remain celibate (sexually pure) until our wedding day and from that day forward give myself only to my spouse.

2. I will never divorce my spouse.

3. I will never physically or emotionally abuse my spouse.

4. I will, unless providentially hindered, be in church worshipping with my family on the Lord’s Day.

5. I will raise any children that God gives us to love the Lord Jesus Christ and His church.

6. I will, in the event that my spouse and I have problems or disagreements that we cannot seem to resolve, seek with my spouse Bible-based Christian counseling to help us resolve our problems.

7. I will attend premarital counseling sessions with a pastor.

I believe we had a total of five sessions (I could be mistaken) with our pastor, and once those were concluded, he approved of performing our wedding ceremony. Other sessions included questions and discussions on character traits that we appreciated about each other, the biblical concept of marriage presented in Gen 2:18–25 and Eph 5:22–33, communication, financial goals and expectations, and other items related to the first few years of marriage.

The reasons that premarital counseling, and even the questions that Oprah raises, are important are abundantly obvious in our culture. Just look at the prevalence of divorce, out-of-wedlock births, adultery, etc. It is out of control, and not just in "secular" society—it is out of control in the church. Here are some statistics that I gathered for my class:

· In 2006, 9.8% of American adults were currently divorced (and not remarried) and 2.1% were separated. (US Census Bureau)

· In 2005, 5% of all American households were composed of unmarried couples of the opposite sex. (US Census Bureau)

· In 2001, 21% of all adult American men and 23.1% of all adult American women had been divorced. (US Census Bureau)

· In 2005 there were 3.6 divorces per 1,000 people in the US. Given that there were 7.5 marriages per 1,000 people, the divorce is around 48%. (US Census Bureau)

· In 2001, 13% of Protestant pastors had been divorced at least once. (The Barna Group)

· In 2001, 25% of self-identified born-again individuals had co-habited. (The Barna Group)

· In 2004, 35% of self-identified born-again individuals had been divorced, which is incidence among non-born-again individuals. (The Barna Group)

· As of 2004, 23% of married born-again individuals get divorced two or more times. (The Barna Group)

· In 2004, only one out of every seven adults (15%) strongly agreed with the statement "when a couple gets divorced without one of them having committed adultery, they are committing a sin." A similar percentage (16%) moderately agreed with the statement. The vast majority (66%) disagreed with the statement, most of them strongly dismissing the notion. (The Barna Group)

· In 2003, compared to married couples who did not cohabit before marriage, couples who cohabited before marriage were 65% more likely to separate and only one-third as likely to reconcile following a separation. (Heritage Foundation)

The statistics are sad and show that even many Christians do not take marriage and family issues seriously. We need to change our perspective and get serious about recovering the priority of marriage and family.