Rebuttal to, Or Observations About, the Kerwin Holmes Jr. Editorial “On Finding ‘The One:’ Another Correction on Christian Teaching Concerning Romance”
The following post has been edited after publication to fix typing mistakes or to add more commentary.
I will be commenting on this editorial about singleness and marriage on The Christian Post:
That post as linked to on The Christian Post’s Facebook page:
This guy’s editorial is written in an odd way, so I’m having to go back and re-read it to just to try and comprehend some of the points he’s making.
Maybe I am totally wrong about this, but my impression is that Holmes is either in his 20s at this time, or in his 30s.
(Wait until he’s in his 40s or older and STILL single. If Holmes still has not married by age 40 or older, his views on these matters will likely shift in time, thanks to good old life experience.)
Also distracting: his first name, Kerwin, reminds me of Kermit the Frog, so I unintentionally keep visualizing Kermit sitting at a keyboard typing this editorial I am reading. (That is not intended to be an ad hominem, just a random aside.)
At the beginning of Holmes’ editorial, he tells readers to view or read dating advice articles or videos by Christian pastors or personalities that he agrees with, such as the works by Reformed pastors or personalities in general and Voddie Baucham in particular .
Let me stop him right there.
I spent years following Christian dating advice (stuff I read or heard in the 1980s and 1990s, advice by and from standard, run- of- the- mill conservative Baptist or evangelical Christians), and none of that smelly, stupid advice ever actually helped me to marry, though I had wanted to be married for many years (I am currently in my 50s and still single).
As a matter of fact, a lot of Christian dating advice, even the advice by conservative Christians, is counter-productive and actually plays a role in keeping single adults single (this includes, and is not limited to, the “be equally yoked” rule).
I’ve blogged on that topic before, with several examples.
Here are just a few examples on my blog of this situation (you can do a search for more, if you like):
(Link): Marriage is Not A Cure For Pedophilia, Making a Joke of Marriage: Christian Preacher Marries A Known Pedophile To Young Woman, Pedophile Then Apparently Molests His Own Biological Infant Son By That Woman
Another good reason for single, Christian women to discount dating advice by Christians:
If you’re (i.e., a Christian person) going to advise married women to stay and submit to abuse by their husbands, and tell them divorce is forbidden, even in cases of on-going physical, sexual, and/or verbal abuse, I, as a single woman, have no reason to believe you care about my well-being, either, or to think your relationship advice is any better than that given to married women.
If your typical marital advice harms women, Christians, (and it frequently does), I have no reason to believe it’s any more compassionate, ethical, wise, or responsible in regards to single women who’d like to date to marry.
Then, let us consider this common Christian phenomenon:
Some of the advice in Holmes’ editorial I agree with (assuming I understand what he’s saying, because some of his writing is muddled).
For example, where he asks Christian couples who are dating one another to be open about that and not keep it a secret from other Christians – I don’t see anything wrong with that part.
Does God Send Every Un-Married Adult A Spouse Who Wants One? (Rare Biblical Examples Aside, the Answer is “No.”)
Here’s where I start to disagree with the author again; Holmes writes (source):
It is definitely horrendous hogwash that you should flee from if you ever hear any pastor or teacher tell you — should you desire to marry — that God does not have a very particular person that He has already chosen for you.
You can use this article as just one example of this erroneous thought being dispensed in the airwaves (which, of all people, unironically referenced Andy Stanley as an authority on this).
This is why this teaching is dangerous for the Christian:
…2. There are entire books dedicated to the sovereignty of God in choosing spouses for particular people where the center of the very Biblical narrative itself is that God had particular people in mind to marry and brought it about by Himself.
Was not Eve destined for Adam? Could there have been a Lilith? Did not Ruth marry Boaz, and how did that happen? How ever did Esther find a husband, and why at such a time as that? Did it really matter that Joseph married Mary?
…If you notice the above trend from Scripture [ie., the few examples in the Bible in which it is said God “sent” a spouse to a person], which these teachers of the law neglect, the providential bringing together of two particular people is a realm that God has cordoned off to Himself and for Himself. Period. It is simply foolish for any Christian to believe to have the right or ability to transgress this.
[And later, the writer once more brings up God’s sovereignty]:
It is shameful that even Reformed men who preach about God’s sovereignty have let this nonsense slide from their tongues, and all for the sake of petty convenience — and these are oft married men with children, at that.
How such men say such things without feeling immediate, crippling shame at seeing the sovereignly designed faces of their young ones, or even their own wives, is beyond even me.
But hey, there has been enough of this going around lately, this forsaking of uncomfortable truths for petty conveniences. This idea does not come from Plato nor from Socrates.
It comes from the commandment of God when He made humanity by forming two particular people, brought them together, and gave them a job to do.
— end excerpt —
The exceptions don’t prove the rule, I’m sorry.
Unless I am misunderstanding Holmes here, he seems to be saying that because the Bible has two or three examples of times God apparently sent a spouse to someone, that it follows that God does this for every one today, or does it for 90% or 100% of people, or that God will do so.
This guy’s theology may be coloring how he views the Bible, dating, and other topics.
Some Reformed are into Calvinism; they think everything is predestined and ordered by God. I disagree. I am not a Calvinist. I err more on the side of believing in libertarian free will.
(Also, what of Non-Reformed persons? If someone is a Christian of different theology from Holmes or they’re an atheist, does Holmes believe that this sovereign God does not permit that person to marry?)
Just because God is sovereign does not mean he sends every one who wants a spouse, a spouse – if you are a single Christian woman who wants a husband, beyond “trusting God” and “God’s sovereignty” for a spouse, you will have to try getting married on your own, which may include doing things like joining dating web sites or apps.
I know I was certainly taught when younger to trust in God for a spouse, to have faith, pray and to wait, and in due time, God would send whomever my “Mr. Right” was into my life to marry me.
I was engaged in my early 30s but broke up with my fiance. I have never married, and I am currently in my 50s.
Blog post to consider:
(Link): Stop Believing God Told You to Marry Your Spouse by G. Thomas
Not All Singles Are ‘Called to Singleness’
There’s a lot of misunderstanding out there by many Christians – singleness is not a “gift,” nor is it a status that God bestows on someone, ditto on Celibacy.
In other words, just because a woman is still single into her 30s and older does not mean God forced singleness on to her, chose her for life-long singleness, or removed her libido and longing for romance and snuggling with a “Mr. Right” on the sofa at night while watching Hulu or Netflix – sorry Christians. That is an erroneous view and biblical interpretation.
Being single into one’s middle age and older is not some kind of proof that God calls people to celibacy and singleness, or predestined them for singleness. I sure did not want to be single this long nor imagine I’d be single this long.
I was raised with this expectation by Christians, Christian sermons, Christian books and other resources, that because I wanted marriage that I would be sent a spouse eventually, especially so if I prayed, trusted God, and waited on God’s timing (all of which I did do for many years).
Christian Dating Advice to Marriage-Desiring, Single Women Does Not Work
Women in Baptist and evangelical venues are taught by other Christians, Christian pastors, Christian books, blog posts, You Tube videos, and sermons, to passively wait for a spouse (and are taught to hope to bump into ‘spouse material’ at a local church), rather than actively go looking for a spouse (i.e., use dating sites, go to bars, ask friends to fix us single women up), which ends in disaster and perpetual singleness, as, for one issue, there’s a demographics problem, with single, Christian women out-numbering single, Christian men.
A Christian, single woman can be living a godly lifestyle, put Jesus number one in her life, attend a local church and also be trusting in God, and praying to God, for a spouse, and arrive in her 50s (like me!) never having been married.
(And yes, I also attended extra-curricular church services, I volunteered, I tried dating sites, and no go on that, either).
(There’s also this good secular column:
(Link): All Dating Advice is as Terrible As the People Who Give It by Oliver Burkeman)
Many churches out there will not help adult singles who’d like to marry to marry; they will not do things such as actually put singles in situations that may increase their odds of getting married – sorry, but for most of us, getting married will actually involve human action.
Most Christians and churches deem setting up social functions where singles can meet each other to date as being nothing more than sleazy “meat markets.”
Most Christians, even ones who push and promote marriage, (Link): will not actually help singles to get married.
No, even a lot of pro-marriage Christians will instead lecture or shame Christian singles who come to them asking for help in getting married;
“Can you introduce me to any singles you know?,” the adult single may ask,
with being told by the married Christian,
“You’re not trusting God and his sovereignty to send you a mate, so no, I won’t introduce you to any singles I know. Just be content in your singleness, and when you are, that is when God will send you a spouse.”
And of course, the single Christian never gets sent that spouse.
Teaching Singles to Passively Wait on God Will Keep Them Perpetually Single
The Bible was written 2,000 and more years ago, through different human authors, spanning thousands of years.
If you think a woman today in 2021 can expect God to provide her with a spouse through no effort on her part at all (or on any human’s part), you’re more than likely setting that woman up for failure and life-long singleness.
I no longer base my life goals or plans on “hoping,” “waiting,” “praying,” “having faith,” examples in the Bible, and “expecting” for God to do ‘this or that’ for me. I spent over 30 years doing that, and it did not help me accomplish my goals.
I’m in my 50s and spent over three decades waiting and trusting on God for a spouse (and yes, during that time, I also attended singles classes at churches and tried dating sites).
At my age now, I realize it’s largely folly to look at two or three examples in the Bible of God sending people a spouse, or opening the womb of an infertile woman to grant her a pregnancy, and extrapolate from that such things will come also true for me as well.
It would be lovely if those examples in the Bible were in effect today, or just as applicable today, or were for every one today, but they’re apparently not, or only for a tiny few, and I’m apparently not included among the tiny few.
Those passive approaches to life (waiting, prayer, trust in God, and so forth) did not help or make my life goals come true for me, or for other Christians out there, either:
I have no idea why the God of the Bible does in fact include three or four examples of himself (as listed in the Bible) sending a person a spouse or a pregnancy, or whatever assistance he granted, but then refusing to help people in this day and age in a similar fashion.
Seems like “bait and switch” to me, a case of false advertising, or cruelly raising someone’s hopes, only to dash it, by having such examples in the Bible and then not replicating such feats in the lives of most faithful believers today.
Over Spiritualizing Singleness
There is a sub-set of Christians out there who at least acknowledge that not all Christian singles who want marriage are getting married, but, they tend to try to do “damage control” by doing other annoying or harmful things, such as over-spiritualizing singleness, in which they downplay the very real heartbreak or disappointment one struggles with when one hoped to marry but it did not come to pass.
Still other Christians are dismissive of the pain of being single when one had hoped for marriage by trotting out inaccurate or hokey biblical interpretations, such as, if you’re still single into your 30s and older, it must be that God “gifted you with” or “called you to” singleness.
Your John Pipers and Owen Strachens of the Christian world will try to explain away the church’s failed promises and failed teachings to singles and God’s failure to send singles spouses by blathering on about “using your singleness for God’s glory.”
Most churches (Baptist, evangelical, and Protestant in particular) are awful about singleness.
Most of these churches and denominations are laser-focused on marriage and the nuclear family to the degree they end up either shaming single adults for being single (and childless) or they don’t even stop to consider and think about singles and meeting the needs of single (or childless or child-free) adults.
Many churches actually (and arrogantly) expect single adults ages 30 and up to act as free church labor (e.g. maid service) or to act as free baby sitters to married couples.
Here is but one example (of several on my blog) of that obnoxious behavior by Christians:
Quoting Holmes again, from his editorial at The Christian Post:
There is no magic 8 ball for you. Young man, pursue good women. Young women, attract good men.
— end excepts —
Why are men being told to “pursue” while women are not told to “pursue” but “to attract?” This is encouraging women to be even more passive, and passivity is guaranteed to keep a single woman who desires marriage single forever, or for much longer than she hoped or expected.
(I suspect this may be tied into sexist gender stereotypes held by both secular and Christian culture (“gender complementarianism”), that men are meant to be active subjects, while women and femininity are supposed to simply sit back and let life happen to them.)
Quoting Holmes again, from his editorial at The Christian Post:
God Himself is faithful to bring about what He wants for you both, which will be for your good, even though you both won’t understand everything.
So then, do not concern yourself with pairing yourself to “the one.” Trust God to do His duty by you doing yours, which is inculcating in your own nature and seeking out in theirs the qualities that God has told you to seek for marriage, and no more and no less.
Worry about your own self first, then seek out a good, attractive Christian neighbor of the opposite sex who does the same.
That’s literally in Scripture. And if you’re diligent enough to obey this teaching, you will be diligent enough, easily, to pursue the Scripture for it.
— end excepts —
Some of what the author says there has not be true in my life, no.
I had wanted to be married, but I arrived at middle-age still being single.
And yes, I had previously followed all the usual Christian relationship advice (and I used to be a gender complementarian myself, too).
Aspects of Holmes’ views reminds me of what I once heard Christian marital counselor Mark Gungor teach, and which I also disagree with:
Holmes’ Incorrect Understanding and False Teaching: No, Not All People Need to Be Married
A friend of mine once sardonically asked me whether I believed that all humans needed to be married. I replied that in this life the norm is “yes,” and that the same was true of prelapsarian Adam in Genesis 2 [Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.”].
He then retorted with a question for what Biblical support I would find to agree with me.
Well, for one, there’s God. It’s right there in the text, and God legitimately/literally spells it out for us in His revealed thoughts. And then for another, given the realities of human nature, all people who have ever been married or ever been born should be on my side.
Another friend asked me once if marriage is even necessary for human life to flourish.
Guys, really, I feel like we have hit a certain peak of surrealism when a fellow human being, conceived and born just as I was, is asking me in the spirit of Christian wisdom whether or not marriage is necessary for human flourishing.
I mean, if wisdom is the objective, then we are somehow a long ways off.
— end excerpts —
I’ve already refuted such thinking on my blog in times past, links to follow.
Suffice it to say, by the time of the New Testament, God indicates that He expects Christians to be spiritual family to other believers, and not get all their companionship needs or emotional needs met via a biological or marital connection.
An un-married Christian, the New Testament teaches, can and should expect to get his or her needs met via other Christians (whether those other Christians are married or also single – this also makes the “Billy Graham” rule un-biblical, by the way).
I’m afraid Holmes is falling into the trap that so many Christians do: turning marriage and the nuclear family into idols, and calling them to serve purposes for which they were not intended, or over-extending their purposes to an unhealthy degree, or to the breaking point.
The Bible simply does not teach that God commands or expects all people to marry.
1 Corinthians 7:
Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. (v 8)
…But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. (v 28)
If God expected or demanded all to marry, we’d not find exceptions about it being acceptable to remain single in the Bible, but we do, as in 1 Corinthians 7.
We also see Jesus of Nazareth (who never married or had biological children of his own, by the way!) constantly go against the Jewish and Roman culture of his era to downplay marriage and biological family:
Jesus replies, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” He points to the disciples and says, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
— end excerpts—
From Matthew 10:37, 38, Jesus again speaking:
Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.…
— end excerpts—
Christians or secular conservative persons or groups who promote or defend marriage (and natalism) go way beyond the Bible’s approval of marriage and parenthood to turn marriage and parenthood into golden calves, where-upon, in the process, they regularly shame or marginalize those adults who cannot marry (or have children) or who do not want to marry (or have children).
(Link): “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” – one of the most excellent Christian rebuttals I have seen against the Christian idolatry of marriage and natalism, and in support of adult singleness and celibacy – from CBE’s site
There is absolutely nothing wrong with marriage, or with a single person wanting to be married, but, too many churches today, especially of the Protestant, evangelical, and Baptist flavors, already fixate on marriage enough as it is, that they end up ignoring the adult singles among them, or, some like to shame adult singles for being single.
Telling single adults that marriage is necessary for “human flourishing” is not only not biblical, but it also again shames, insults, and demotivates singles who may be seeing such rhetoric, and singles are already bashed enough by Christian culture as it is merely for being single.
A ‘Norm’ is Not Necessarily Biblical, or an Indication of How God Feels Either Way on a Topic
Edit. Over on his blog page, (in the comments section), Holmes says he never said in his Christian Post essay that he thinks the Bible teaches that God says all adults should be married – he says he thinks people being married is a norm.
Here is what he says in response to a commentator named Don on his blog:
Others misrepresent what I wrote (never said that everyone is meant to marry, but some may not appreciate the meaning of the word “norm”).
—- end comment by Holmes —
Here is how Holmes originally worded things:
A friend of mine once sardonically asked me whether I believed that all humans needed to be married. I replied that in this life the norm is “yes,”
—- end comments —
Holmes just said, in answer to the question, “do all humans need to be married” that his response is “yes.” The word “norm” prior to the “yes” does not negate that he’s replying, “Yes, all humans need to marry.”
If I understand Holmes’ follow up views correctly, as he replies to a commentator named “Don,” it would be more accurate for him to respond something like this:
“No, I do not believe all humans need to be married, but I believe that marriage was at one time the norm in American culture”
Sorry, but Holmes said that he told a friend of his that yes, all should marry, are meant to marry, and that marriage is necessary for “human flourishing.”
The implication of Holmes’ wording is that if an adult does not marry, the he or she specifically, as an individual, will not “flourish.”
The Bible no where says that marriage is necessary for “flourishing,” to “save” a society, or to make a person godly, ethical, mature, or whole.
But even on the grounds he presents, about marriage being “a norm,” Holmes would be incorrect.
If we were blogging all this in the year 1948 or 1952 America, he’d maybe have a point, but not in the year 2021.
No where does the Bible say that God thinks that being married is “the norm.”
Whether to get married or not, and at what age, are cultural norms that each culture dictates.
It WAS at one time the norm in many cultures in many nations over time for people to get married, but it does not follow from cultural habits that God necessarily agrees with, promotes, or approves of whatever cultural habits are under discussion.
Maybe God actually would prefer it if more people in this day and age did NOT marry – who can say?
Nobody can say, because God does not definitely state either way in the Bible – God allows whether to marry or not as part of his permissive will for people to decide for themselves.
God leaves some issues up to humans to decide for themselves because he’s actually not a power-mongering control freak, contrary to what some Calvinists or cranky atheists online think. (See Romans 14: 4-6 for more on that)
Whether I decide to put on a red colored t-shirt today or a blue one, I don’t think God cares – he leaves that up to me to decide. So it goes with marriage or singleness.
The fact is, right now, in the United States, the cultural norm is to stay single – marriage is no longer the norm in American culture (the same is true in Japan and other nations right now).
According to various studies I’ve seen in the last several years, single adults now out-number married couples, which would now make being and staying single “the norm.”
So, if we are using a culture’s norms as a barometer on what God’s opinions or preferences are, it would appear that not getting married is now God’s expectation, desire, or norm for American adults.
I’ve addressed this before in a previous post. This may be that post:
Just because the cultures of the times in which the Bible books were written felt one way or another about marriage does not necessarily mean those historical cultural norms were “biblical”
Jesus of Nazareth (like other adults of his time and place) was expected by his religion and culture to marry, but he never did.
Marriage Does Not Always Equate to Constant Happiness
If you are a single who thinks getting married will keep you happy constantly, and you will never experience loneliness or longing, I have a large stack of blog posts with examples that indicate otherwise, such as:
(Link): The Selfish, Lazy Husband Who Kept Blowing Off His Stressed Wife to Go on World War 2 Reenactments – Male Entitlement in Relationships: Why Women Divorce Men – and Churches and Culture Support This Male Entitlement
If you think you won’t die alone if you get married (and/or have children), think again!
We’re Back to “Trust God, And He’ll Send You A Spouse”
More from that editorial (according to the Christian Post, this essay was originally published on The Reasoners’s Corner blog) :
Stop settling for convenient lies. Stop transgressing on God’s power. And stop using the world’s tactics for the pursuit of love. Is the Living God not also the God of Eros? Yes, yes He is. So stay in your own lane, but be brave enough to put the car into gear and obey His road signs.
Trust God for a change and be surprised at what happens.
— end excerpts —
I used the “Christian” tactics for “pursuing (marital) love,” for all the years I was a devout Christian, and it didn’t work for me, and I’ve heard from other adult, Christian singles over the years who’ve left me comments on this blog telling me they too are in the same position as I am – still single, in spite of following “biblical, godly” advice on how to get married.
At this stage, your average Christian jumps in (Link): to engage in some victim-blaming – but no, I did not ask God for a spouse (Link): out of wrong motive, I was not living in unforgiveness or sin, etc.
If I’m understanding this guy correctly, I think he’s trying to tell Christian singles to basically hand over their dating life or love life to God, but at the same time, to maybe step out on their own (i.e., using dating apps, etc). I’m not even entirely sure what he’s getting at.
My advice to Christian singles who’d like to be dating or married – go with your own instincts, and actually tune out “Christian” dating advice. You’ll go further on your own.
(Link): Update on Christian Rapist Man Who Used Christian Mingle Site To Pick His Victims (he liked to discuss Jesus and the Bible with them before raping them – other details in update) Equally Yoked Teaching IS A FARCE
(Link): Stop Believing God Told You to Marry Your Spouse by G. Thomas
(Link): False Christian Teaching: “Only A Few Are Called to Singleness and Celibacy” or (also false): God’s gifting of singleness is rare – More Accurate: God calls only a few to marriage and God gifts only the rare with the gift of Marriage
(Link): Women: Stop Asking Pat Robertson For Romantic Relationship Advice – Whether You Are Divorced or Single – Pat Robertson Replies to Letter from Four Time Divorced Woman Who Wants to Know If God Will Send Her a Non-Abusive Husband
(Link): Desire for Marriage is Idolatry?