Tag Archives: Feelings

The meaning of marriage: a lecture at Google by Tim Keller

Painting: "Courtship", by Edmund Blair Leighton (1888)
Painting: “Courtship”, by Edmund Blair Leighton (1888)

Disclaimer: I have reservations about Tim Keller. I consider him to be too liberal for my tastes, especially on scientific (intelligent design) and political/economic issues. However, I think he did a good job explaining marriage in the lecture below.

Here’s the the video:

Details:

Timothy Keller visits Google’s New York, NY office to discuss his book “The Meaning of Marriage.” This event took place on November 14, 2011, as part of the Authors@Google series.

Timothy J. Keller is an American author, speaker, preacher, and the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He is the author of several books, including “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism.”

“The Meaning of Marriage” touches on topics that all readers can relate to, starting with the role of marriage in our culture, its history and the pessimism that is often associated with it. The Kellers also discuss the feelings of and acts of love, romantic relationships, gender roles, singleness, and the role of sex in a marriage.

I saw a lot of things in his lecture that echo my own views. One point where we agree is on not just looking for traits and virtues in the other person, but in seeing how they handle conflict and solve problems with you.  You have to give the other person things to do and see if they make progress and work cooperatively with you. The most important thing to look for is someone who sees potential in you and is committed to helping you realize it. You want someone who won’t give up on you, no matter how hard things get. There are fun and happy times in a marriage, but those come naturally – the real question is how well two people stick together to get things done when it’s hard. I definitely recommend Keller’s book on marriage, it’s such a good vision of what marriage could be.

Here’s an article entitled “You Never Marry the Right Person“, that discusses one of the points in the lecture.

Excerpt:

In generations past, there was far less talk about “compatibility” and finding the ideal soul-mate. Today we are looking for someone who accepts us as we are and fulfills our desires, and this creates an unrealistic set of expectations that frustrates both the searchers and the searched for.

[…]The Bible explains why the quest for compatibility seems to be so impossible. As a pastor I have spoken to thousands of couples, some working on marriage-seeking, some working on marriage-sustaining and some working on marriage-saving. I’ve heard them say over and over, “Love shouldn’t be this hard, it should come naturally.” In response I always say something like: “Why believe that? Would someone who wants to play professional baseball say, ‘It shouldn’t be so hard to hit a fastball’? Would someone who wants to write the greatest American novel of her generation say, ‘It shouldn’t be hard to create believable characters and compelling narrative’?” The understandable retort is: “But this is not baseball or literature. This is love. Love should just come naturally if two people are compatible, if they are truly soul-mates. “

The Christian answer to this is that no two people are compatible. Duke University Ethics professor Stanley Hauerwas has famously made this point:

Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become “whole” and happy. The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. This moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person.We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.

Hauerwas gives us the first reason that no two people are compatible for marriage, namely, that marriage profoundly changes us. But there is another reason. Any two people who enter into marriage are spiritually broken by sin, which among other things means to be self-centered—living lifeincurvatus in se. As author Denis de Rougemont said, “Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love … ?” That is why a good marriage is more painfully hard to achieve than athletic or artistic prowess. Raw, natural talent does not enable you to play baseball as a pro or write great literature without enduring discipline and enormous work. Why would it be easy to live lovingly and well with another human being in light of what is profoundly wrong within our human nature? Indeed, many people who have mastered athletics and art have failed miserably at marriage. So the biblical doctrine of sin explains why marriage—more than anything else that is good and important in this fallen world—is so painful and hard.

When you are courting, don’t worry about appearances and feelings and passion so much, because that is all subject to change over time, and those things won’t help you with the real challenges you’ll face in a marriage. Worry about whether they are the kind of person who can make commitments and love other people self-sacrificially – even if they are unlovable. In the long run, their ability to read and understand issues, to care for others and serve them, to keep promises, to be respectful and supportive, to argue respectfully and reasonably, and to solve problems constructively, will all be far more important than appearances and feelings and passion.

During the courtship, give the other person things to do that challenge them and see how they handle being given responsibilities – giving a person hard things to do is a much better way to test a person than recreational nights out with recreational drinking, recreational dancing and recreational sex. Marriage means commitment and hard work, not recreation. And that’s what you should test for – the ability to work hard at the relationship and to keep promises and commitments and to communicate reasonably and to work through difficulties fairly. The most dangerous thing you want to avoid is self-centeredness. You don’t want someone who is primarily interested in minimizing your feelings, and then getting her friends to agree with her that this is legitimate for whatever reasons. You want a person who has had a hard enough life that responsibilities and obligations are natural to her, and who doesn’t try to wiggle out of self-sacrificial acts of love when she doesn’t feel like doing it. Each person needs to invest in the other, so that both can have fuel to do their job in the relationship.

Bible study: responsibilities and obligations in Philippians 1-4

(Note: this video illustrates an infantry tactic where one group monitors the movement of another group. And then they switch roles. This is called “bounding overwatch”)

Here are some parts of Philippians that speak to an issue that I think is a problem today for many Christians – self-centeredness. I have three parts of Philippians to present below on that topic.

1) The importance of fellowship – preparing to work together with other Christians towards some end:

Phil 1:3-11:

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Some Christians find it difficult to “participate in the gospel” with anyone because they feel uncomfortable with responsibilities, expectations or obligations to others. In my experience, people who shun responsibilities, obligations and expectations can improve this by taking Paul’s advice – grow in real knowledge and all discernment. In my experience, I have found that people who shy away from responsibilities, expectations and obligations do so because they are afraid of failing. They are proud and don’t want to look bad if they fail to perform something that they are expected to perform. Christians should not shy away from growing though, because growing is what helps us to be better partners in the gospel. We should try to read hard things, study hard things, and take the hardest jobs we can do – so that we build up our tolerance for responsibilities, obligations and expectations. People who do hard jobs like computer programming or nursing know that that you always struggle to learn difficult things and there is always the risk of looking incompetent. But we accept the risk of looking stupid and being judged and this builds a level of comfort with responsibilities, obligations and expectations. That comfort level with responsibilities, obligations and expectations that you get from doing hard things can only help you be a better partner in the gospel.

2) The importance of not being self-centered, but instead being focused on the needs of others:

Phil 2:1-8:

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

And Phil 2:19-23:

19 But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. 20 For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.

Nothing very complicated here, it’s important to look out for the interests of others and to be concerned about their welfare. I think it’s a good idea to be practical about this, and instead of just expressing opinions like “I care”, try to find out what needs to be done and do it. The important thing is that it’s good to be focused on other people, and not on ourselves, and to think of the interests of others, not our own interests. That point about looking out for other people’s interests is said twice, once in each passage from chapter 2 I quoted above.

3) People who are doing good work for the Lord have needs:

Phil 4:10-18:

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.

15 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; 16 for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. 17 Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. 18 But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.

I think if you are friends with a person and they are working on some task or other for the gospel, then it’s a good idea to be sensitive to their needs, and be open to caring for those needs. Your goal should not be to make excuses for why you don’t have to do anything to help them. In my case, finances are not a problem, so I don’t have that need. I use money to supply the needs of people that I partner with in the gospel, though. Instead, I have other needs that people can help with – for example, after a stressful day of work, I am always looking for people to play games with me. Some of my friends show an interest in that, and others don’t. The good things that I do for God are not free, and it matters a lot to me whether those who know me want to listen to me and then take responsibility for making sure that I keep functioning and doing the things that I do for God. We have to have an eye out to maintain people who are doing good things for God – not just take it for granted that it will continue. Sometimes, it is not just sending money (gifts), it can be other love languages like touch, service, quality time and words of encouragement. But turning away from the needs of others is not good for us.

New study: women seeking to have a child should start before age 32

Brain vs Heart, from: theawkwardyeti.com
Brain vs Heart, from: theawkwardyeti.com

Dina sent me this sobering piece of research from the New Scientist which is perfect for all the young feminists who have been taught in college that marriage should be put off, and women can easily get pregnant after age 40.

Excerpt:

It’s a question many people will ask themselves at some point in their lives: when should I start a family? If you know how many children you’d like, and whether or not you would consider, or could afford, IVF, a computer model can suggest when to start trying for your first child.

Happy with just one? The model recommends you get started by age 32 to have a 90 per cent chance of realising your dream without IVF. A brood of three would mean starting by age 23 to have the same chance of success. Wait until 35 and the odds are 50:50 (see “When to get started”).

The suggestions are based on averages pulled from a swathe of data so don’t give a personal prediction. And of course, things aren’t this simple in real life – if only family size and feelings about IVF were the only factors to consider when planning a family. But the idea behind the model is to help people make a decision by condensing all the information out there into an accessible form.

“We have tried to fill a missing link in the decision-making process,” says Dik Habbema at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, one of the creators of the model. “My son is 35 and many of his friends have a problem deciding when to have children because there are so many things they want to do.”

It’s a scenario that will be familiar to many; the age at which people have their first child has been creeping up over the last 40 or so years. For example, the average age at which a woman has her first child is 28 in the UK and has reached 30 in Italy, Spain and Switzerland. In the US, the birth rate for women in their 20s has hit a record low, while the figures for those over 35 have increased over the last few decades.

The decision is more pressing for women thanks to their limited supply of eggs, which steadily drop in quantity and quality with age. Female fertility is thought to start declining at 30, with a more significant fall after the age of 35.

[…]The new model incorporates data from studies that assess how fertility naturally declines with age. The team took information on natural fertility from population data collected over 300 years up to the 1970s, which includes data on 58,000 women.

I have often tried to talk to young women about the need to get their lives in gear. I advise them to work summers during high school, obtain a STEM degree in university, minimize borrowing money by going to community college for the generic prerequisites, don’t have premarital sex, get a job related to their STEM field straight out of college, pay off their debts, move out of their parents’ house, start investing from the first paycheck, marry between age 25-30, and then start having children after the first two “stabilizing” years of marriage. This is sound advice, rooted in my careful reconnaissance of the things that human beings care about and need in their old age. This advice is not bullying, it comes from reading many, many relevant papers. It comes from putting the knowledge gained from reading the papers into practice, and seeing results where appropriate.

I am giving you the numbers. Straight out of a peer-reviewed study. Don’t follow your heart. Don’t listen to your friends. Follow the science. Make your decisions within the boundaries of reality. God will not save you from foolish decisions.

Related posts

How America exchanged free speech and debate for mob rule

Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign
Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign

I posted this article from The Federalist on Facebook and was surprised by the response. It’s about how the secular left managed to shut down debate by replacing rational thought and disagreement with the practice of using power to silence people who disagree with them.

The article is long, and very very good. I will try to snip enough of it here to convince you to read it. The thesis is that the secular left is trying to push their views on the masses, and succeeding, but not through rational discourse.

How are they doing pushing their agenda, then?

A lot of Americans watched in shock while cultish mobs suddenly attacked the RFRA that Pence initially defended. But the groundwork for mass hysteria like this was stealthily laid for decades, and the minefields sown.

Family breakdown led to community breakdown, which we can see in the decline of trust in society. Ignorance was cultivated in the schools through political correctness and squashing free debate. The academy’s disparaging of western civilization virtually wiped out respect for any serious study of history and civics, as well as for the Socratic method and the rules of civil discourse. Political correctness sewed confusion into the language, particularly regarding identity politics. Youth are now set to be programmed for conformity through the K-12 “Common Core” curriculum mandates.

All of that and more promotes the semantic fog that allows for mind rape. It amounts to an act of “logicide,” to borrow a term from Meerloo, whom I will continue to quote below. To kill logic and reason that might stand in their way, wannabe dictators “fabricate a hate language in order to stir up mass emotions.” Leaders in Indiana, Arkansas, and Louisiana have been unable to understand this tactic and are grossly unprepared to deal with it. So they simply surrendered. In effect, they joined the mob, further endangering everybody’s freedom.

So, a majority of Americans have been presented with the idea that to some opinions on certain topics can be easily disregarded because they are “hate” – i.e., they make a certain group of people feel bad. And if you try to have a reasoned discourse with them, their response will be non-cognitive. They will call you names, try to shame you, and then comes the coercion as a last resort. The coercion can be anything from getting you fired, to vandalism, to violence, to domestic terrorism – in the case of Floyd Lee Corkins.

It turns out that deep within the human spirit, there is some sort of need to join up with a group of people, to feel righteous, and to let go of reason and just let feelings run wild over the rights of others. This is the so-called “mob mentality” which is so possible with groups on the left.

More:

Most who protest the RFRA laws are more likely pawns than true believers. Like the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd, they tend to be atomized individuals who are drawn to the psychic thrill of being part of a mobilized mass that feeds on emotions and can feel a sense of righteousness in the stated pretext. (In the RFRA case, it’s the semantic device of “marriage equality,” but it’ll just as easily be something else tomorrow.) “The ecstatic participation in mass elation is the oldest psycho drama in the world,” wrote Meerloo.

“Crowds and Power,” by Elias Canetti, is a classic work that explores in detail the draw of the crowd for human beings. With the continued chipping away of the organic family of mother-child-father, human relationships inevitably become diluted and more subservient to a mass state. This detachment cultivates human alienation, which draws more people to answer to the call of the mass state’s mob.

Such protesters and their scores of clueless apologists in the media are also utterly detached from the reality of the meaning of laws such as an RFRA. The RFRA only clarifies that the government doesn’t get to coerce us in private thought or to dictate what we are allowed to feel, believe, think, and express. In other words, the First Amendment is not negotiable if we are to have any semblance of freedom in this country.

But the emotional stew in which we are now boiling doesn’t allow logic or reason to prevail.

I was having a chat with a Christian woman recently. We were just sort of getting to know each other and seeing what we each believed. And what was interesting to me (and this is before I read this article) is how we both 1) had a different view of what counts as good literature, good music, good drama, etc. and 2) we were very comfortable with not liking what everyone else liked. In fact, we were talking about how to get along with friends and co-workers who disagree with us on things like politics, marriage, and so on.

I was just reflecting on that as I was reading the article, and thinking to myself “in order to be a Christian, you have to have arrived at your views on issues independently or you will just abandon it whenever the majority challenges you”.  Being a rebel is central to the Christian worldview – we have to do our own homework in order to resist the culture. For her, some of that was from her family experiences and her reading and following current events. For me, some of it comes from watching debates and listening to both sides. But the point is that we are both very conscious that we don’t fit in, and we are OK with it. But I think for the majority of people today, it’s not OK for them. They really have this emotional need to fit in with the “nice” group, and part of how they remain in the “nice” group is by refusing to listen to any views that are not their own. That is literally what they are taught in university, for example. They are taught to call anyone who disagrees with them a name.

I was once told by a particularly foolish East Indian man that I was pro-life because I “hated women”. I was trying to explain to him baby development in the womb, and he cut me off, ran to each of my friends, and whispered to them that I hated women. This was a grown man doing this. A computer programmer. That is what you can expect from the secular left today when disagreements arise. I sometimes wonder what that man would have thought if I showed him plugging his ears and running around in circles telling everyone what a hater I was, as I was flipping through a biology textbook and trying to show him the pictures.

But that’s exactly what’s different today. Somehow, the left has made us want to form our views based on the feelings of some group of victims. It’s the worst thing in the world to make these special people feel bad, and we have to be “on the right side of history” (their side) without ever having a rational debate about anything. Feelings of being hurt and offended short-circuit debate now. All the Christians, including me, have had to shut down talking about these things at work, because you never know what kind of psychopath you are dealing with now, and how far they will go to sanction you. It’s sad because some of my co-workers want me to talk policy and law and current events with them. But I can’t – I never know who is listening who will be offended. And that’s exactly what the propagandists are counting on. They want their followers to be little childish barbarians who organize into mobs and threaten and coerce, as we see with the Christian businesses. And they have no shame about taking a person’s job, savings, home, etc. They are unable to see we who disagree with them as human beings, so strong is their hatred of reasoned discourse and their feeling of being “offended”. I literally cannot have a conversation with some leftists because they start to shout insults at me the minute they apprehend that I don’t agree with them on some issue.

What to do if your husband has lost interest in going to church

Theology that hits the spot
Theology that hits the spot

Lindsay, from Lindsay’s Logic, has written a fine post on how to get men interested in the church.

She writes:

Many Christian wives with Christian husbands are concerned because their husbands are withdrawing from church and refusing to attend or to be involved. The number one reason that men are becoming disillusioned with church is that the church has become highly feminized. Worship services often focus on emotional things like singing praise songs and sermons are often more of a pep talk or Christian psychology instead of deep doctrine. And, above all, faith is very commonly spoken of in terms of how you feel rather than reasons and evidence.

Most men instinctively withdraw from Christianity that is focused on feelings. They don’t want Jesus to be their boyfriend. They don’t want to sing mushy love songs to Jesus or talk about their feelings about God. So a worship service that seems like just feeling happy thoughts about Jesus is going to grate and, over time, push them away.

The answer to getting men involved and passionate about church is apologetics. Apologetics is the study of the reasons and evidence for the Christian faith. It’s based on facts, not feelings. And men will engage with a Christianity focused on believing something they have evidence for and then going on a mission to change the world (or at least their corner of it).

The rest of her post deals with specific recommendations, and I will only excerpt one below:

4) Stop talking about church and Christianity in terms of feelings. Talk about what God’s word says. Talk about what’s right and wrong. Talk about how we know the Bible is true and about the evidence for the resurrection. Talk about the history of the church and the persecution that people have withstood in order to hold on to what they knew to be true. But stop talking about how church makes you feel good or how much you “love” Jesus. No doubt church does make you feel good and no doubt you do love Jesus, but talking about Christianity in those terms will not help with your husband.

The most important thing to understand about getting men interested in the church is that men are men. We are not interested in most of the things that women go to church for. We don’t like singing much, we don’t like praying as much (we would rather fix everything ourselves, and so praying is like a last resort), and we mostly read the Bible to find out who God is, so that we can make practical plans in real life to achieve real-world results. We don’t read it to feel anything, we just want to find something useful to do from it. Sometimes, Christians want to make Christianity about happy feelings and getting along. Men aren’t like that. We actually like confronting people and debating with them. If you look at Jesus in the temple, or Paul going to synagogues and marketplaces to debate with people, that’s what men want to do. Don’t try to make us go to churches where debates about moral issues, politics and apologetics are not happening, we don’t want to go.

We don’t want to be preached at by fideists, we want everything presented to us as a set of alternatives to debate about. We don’t want to be told what to believe, we want to be told what reasons and evidence there is to think that certain beliefs are true. We don’t want you to wallow around crying about losers, we want to be presented with winners, people who made a difference by achieving something heroic through adversity. And we don’t want to think of God as our creepy stalker / lover, we want to think about God as our battle-hardened commanding officer. We want to know how we can sacrifice our self-interest in order to achieve practical results. We want to train for battle, and then win. So stop trying to make us into girls, and then maybe we’ll be interested in church. This isn’t hard to understand, muppets, you just have to think of things from a perspective other than your own.

By the way, if you are a man reading this, for goodness sake, start learning apologetics and listen to Wayne Grudem lectures on ethics and public policy. You have been greatly mistreated by the church, it turns out that Christianity is not boring or impractical at all, it is only like that in feminized churches, where emotional nonsense dominates.