Mohler, Marriage, And Ministry

Halden points out an article in the NY Times about the pressure on pastors to be married, and then states the obvious contradiction with what Paul wrote not only about marriage but about all categories of earthly life:

“To argue, as folks like Mohler do, that a social-cultural institution (however good it may be in many ways) is the dominant norm for those who would proclaim the Gospel is to deny what the Gospel proclaims, namely that in Christ social-cultural divisions, whatever they might be no longer ‘are.’ What is something, the Gospel says, is ‘a new creation.'”

In other words, by putting this expectation not only on pastors but, by example, on everyone who wants to participate in the Christian life makes a mockery of both the meaning Jesus’ life and death and of the very institution of marriage. (And let’s be honest here, as much as pastors are supposed to merely point to Jesus, many people take the pastor’s life as a model for their own – so this applies to most Christians.)

This sort of thinking makes a mockery of the Christian life and of marriage itself. Oh, just go out and pick a wife, it’s a good career move. That’s what Mohler says in so many words. Sure, just go down to the spousal vending machine and picking the model you want and pop in some coins – it’s that easy pastoral candidates, but you better do it. Of course anyone whose conception of relationships has moved beyond fairytales or perhaps Super Mario Bros. will know that this is not at all the case. Life is difficult and ambiguous and the long-term commitment of marriage is actually a big deal – good thing we don’t have any spousal vending machines…

Except that, for would-be pastors we do.

I used to live near a largish evangelical bible college and seminary and, while I never went there, I knew a lot of students and ended up with a pretty good feel for what bible college life is like. It’s no secret that these institutions seem to serve precisely to marry off many of those who attend them. There is of course the old joke that refers to bible colleges as “bridal colleges.” It would be funny except that it’s true. You have a huge chunk of Christian girls going to these places simply because they believe that this is a great way to meet a nice godly young guy. How else do you explain the huge numbers of females attending bible colleges that cater to denominations that don’t believe in female ordination? Sure some of them are really keen in studying biblical subjects and some may still end up in ministry, but it sure does seem like a lot of them would like to meet the right Christian guy above all else. (This is not to say that if you married someone you actually met in bible college that your marriage is invalid of course, people can meet anywhere and everywhere – it’s just that the social pressure in bible college sometimes seems liable to throw discernment out the window when it comes to selecting a mate.)

Marriage is, of course, a very respectable thing to which one can aspire. It’s also one of the most important and difficult commitments that one can ever make, it requires work, it will change you, it will challenge you, it can help make you a better, stronger person – if you take care of it and work at it. Don’t ever think of it as a career move. What a wasteful, stupid thing to do. Let’s welcome everyone to the pastorate who has shown the right character and commitment to faithfully execute the role, not just someone who has selected a random bible college girl as the correct fashion statement for the job. Pressuring every pastor to marry makes about as much sense as a celibate priesthood.