William Lane Craig offers advice to Christians considering marriage

This post is a 3 in one: one lecture, one question and answer, and another lecture – all on different topics. My friend Neil S. requested this so I’m posting it.

I got this lecture from the Reasonable Faith web site.

Dr. William Lane Craig is the top living Christian apologist and debater in the world today, and has 2 Masters degrees and 2 Ph.Ds. He also has scores of academic publications including books from Oxford University Press, etc.

The MP3 file is here. (14.5 Mb, about 41 minutes)

Topics:

  • the stresses of ministry on marriages
  • the Christian position on divorce
  • balancing marriage with academic pursuits
  • the importance of marrying the right person
  • Dr. Craig’s politically incorrect advice for choosing a spouse
  • Advice for men: Marry someone who believes in you and who supports you in your calling
  • Advice for women: Be the kind of person who can commit to being a helper and supporter
  • Advice for men: Beware of the career woman who will put their career over supporting you in your calling
  • Advice for women: Be careful about marrying if you think that your goals are more important than your husband’s goals
  • Advice: Don’t try to find the right person for you but instead focus on learning about marriage and preparing for marriage
  • Advice: Flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, love and peace
  • Advice: God intends for sex to be within the bounds of marriage, so you need to guard yourself against unchastity
  • Advice for men: be careful what images and movies you see with the goal of keeping your chastity
  • Advice: your highest responsibility after your relationship with God is your spouse, and your studies are third
  • Advice: it’s better to drop classes or give up your graduate studies entirely rather than destroy your marriage
  • Advice for women: understand that you have to work at the marriage in order to help your man finish his studies
  • Advice: set aside a period of the day for communicating and bonding with your spouse
  • Advice: cultivate the ability to talk with your spouse on a personal level, and maintain eye contact
  • Advice for men: do not break eye contact with your wife, and also hold her hand when communicating
  • Advice: do not be embarrassed to seek out a marriage counselor, but make it a good counselor
  • Advice:  don’t just be doing stuff for your mate, but also be vulnerable and transparent with your mate
  • How your relationship with your wife helps you with your relationship with God
  • How do you handle the rebellion of children without being overbearing and authoritarian?

There is a period of Q&A at the end. There is another piece of advice that comes out in the Q&A for women: take an interest in your spouse’s work even if you don’t care about it, and ask him about it every day and try to understand it. Go to the man’s workplace and see what he does. Go to his presentations. Get involved in the man’s ministry and help him in practical ways. Another piece of advice is to not paper over the differences – it’s good to argue, because it means that problems are being confronted and worked through. Husbands should have a good male friend to talk to, and wives should have a good female friend to talk to.

I like how Dr. Craig has thought about how to have a successful marriage, how to choose the right woman, and how to love his wife. I like how he calls out men on the chastity thing. I think that chastity is more important for men than for women, because it’s the men who take the lead in choosing and pursuing the right woman for their plan, and their judgment cannot be clouded by the desire for premarital sex.

It’s the man who is accountable for making the marriage count for God, he will never be able to achieve anything if chooses a wife is merely pretty, rather than being a good learner, resourceful, hard-working, organized and effective. She is the one who has to be chief of staff and take care of the details of his plan to lead the family. (In my case, the plan is 1) impact the church with apologetics, 2) impact the university with apologetics, 3) advocate for laws and policies that protect religious liberty, right to life, marriage and family, and 4) raise Children who will remain Christian and have an influence for Christ and his Kingdom). A man can’t choose a woman who is merely attractive and fun-loving – she will never be willing to commit to doing the hard work that will allow the family to achieve anything as a team.

This is important: don’t choose a woman who isn’t willing to help you with your plan to serve God. And don’t choose a woman who is more interested in fun and thrills than learning and working to achieve a goal. If she is not able to commit to tasks and finish what she starts, then she is not for you. That’s what good women do – they are not content to talk about big plans and not achieve then, they are doers. They find ways to get the job done through organization, discipline and self-sacrifice.

Secondly, here is my previous post on Dr. Craig’s advice for married couples, where he gives 5 points of advice for married couples.

Here are the main pieces of advice Dr. Craig gives:

  1. Resolve that there will be no divorce
  2. Delay having children
  3. Confront problems honestly
  4. Seek marital counseling
  5. Take steps to build intimacy in your relationship

And here’s the controversial one (#2):

2. Delay having children. The first years of marriage are difficult enough on their own without introducing the complication of children. Once children come, the wife’s attention is necessarily diverted, and huge stresses come upon you both. Spend the first several years of marriage getting to know each other, working through your issues, having fun together, and enjoying that intimate love relationship between just the two of you. Jan and I waited ten years before having our first child Charity, which allowed me the finish graduate school, get our feet on the ground financially, establish some roots, and enjoy and build our love relationship until we were really ready to take on the responsibilities of parenthood. The qualifier here is that if the wife desperately wants children now, then the husband should accede to her wish to become a mother, rather than withhold that from her. Her verdict should be decisive. But if you both can agree to wait, things will probably be much easier.

Third and finally, here is a previous post on Dr. Craig’s advice for choosing a good spouse, with illustrations from his own marriage.

For example, Bill’s first story about Jan occurs early after their marriage while he is working on his first Masters degree at Trinity:

And it was also at that time that I began to see what an invaluable asset the Lord had given me in Jan. I remember I came home from classes one day, and found her at the kitchen table with all the catalogs and schedules and papers spread out in front of her and she said, “look! I’ve figured out how you can get two Masters degrees at the same time that it would normally take to get one! All you have to do is take overloads every semester, go to all full-time summer school and do all these other things, and you can do two MAs in the time it takes to do one!”

And I thought, whoa! Are you sure you really want to make the commitment it takes to do this kind of thing? And she said, “Yeah! Go for it!” And it was then I began to see that God had given me a very special woman who was my supporter – my cheerleader – and who really believed in me. And as long as she believed in me, that gave me the confidence to dream bigger dreams, and to take on challenges that I had never thought of before.

If you want to hear another Christian husband talk about how his wife supports him, listen to this lecture called “Giants in the Land” with Dr. Walter Bradley. It’s actually my favorite lecture. I also really like his testimony lecture. If you’re looking for guidance, these are some of the people I would recommend.

5 thoughts on “William Lane Craig offers advice to Christians considering marriage”

  1. Dr William Craig is one of my heroes, and amazingly convincing on almost everything – except this! I praise God for my wonderful husband who has supported me in my studies as I have supported him in his. My husband has loved me enough to inspire me and encourage me in my post grad studies, and I know he feels I have done the same for him. We have been married for 46 wonderful years …..

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  2. The controversial one #2 is indeed controversial, and suggests other problems. First, what is the source of this advice? It isn’t Scripture! I hear the same from my mother’s aunt Tildy (not a real person) …it’s a piece of “common knowledge” which has been passed around our first-world culture for a long time. And it is easily countered with the Word of God. Disappointing that he would not only repeat it, but would have apparently lived it, unexamined.

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  3. Yes, I definitely have problems with point #2. If you’re talking about a couple of 18 or 20 year olds who can barely make ends meet, it may be wise for them to put off childbearing for a year or two (as long as they do so in a moral way, and not by killing children they accidentally conceived, of course). However, this is bad advice when given to people across the board.

    When you’ve got a couple marrying in their late 20’s or older (which is more the rule than the exception these days), putting off children is a VERY bad idea. There are no guarantees on fertility and the older you get, the greater your chances of not being able to have children. God wants married couples to have children. God says children are a blessing.

    And there is also no reason that having children should ruin your marriage. If they do, you didn’t have a very good foundation.

    Marriage shouldn’t be two people so focused on each other and their “happiness” that children are considered an intrusion or a burden. But the idea that having children right away will ruin your marriage by inserting responsibility before you’re ready for it breeds the kind of attitude that treats children as a burden and a kill-joy instead of the incredible gifts that they are. I know waiting to have kids so you can focus on each other is commonly touted as “wisdom,” but it’s the world’s wisdom, not God’s.

    A marriage is inherently the kind of relationship that is oriented toward and naturally fulfilled by having and raising children. If you start out by seeing children as a distraction from your time together, you’re starting out with the wrong mindset, not only about children, but also about marriage itself.

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  4. I also agree that delaying trying to have children for more than a year or two is a bad idea for most Christian couples.

    Dr. Craig and his wife have two children which puts them below fertility replacement for themselves. I think church growth can best be accomplished by Christian couples having a goal of three or more children.

    Look what happened to the Shaker sect, they died out because they outlawed sex and childbirth. They adopted children and recruited/proselytized adult members but that was not enough.

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  5. I’ve seen it argued, and am half-persuaded, that fertility is a more important service to the church than evangelism these days. The New Testament does have clear language promoting evangelism, but also instructs the apostles to “shake the dust from their feet” where their message is rejected, and to not cast their pearls before swine. They were explicitly told NOT to keep perpetually hassling people who had heard the Word and had rejected it.

    Today in the West you have to look very long and hard to find someone who has not heard the Word. Anyone who wishes to learn more about Christianity or try attending a service has an easier, smoother path than ever before in history. Missionaries now have to travel to ever deeper backwaters in Africa and South America to find people who haven’t heard of Christ. To continue badgering people who have heard the Christian message and rejected it is un-Biblical, though we should always be ready to help those who reach out to us or show interest.

    If you want to make more Christians, try literally making more Christians. You have a much better chance conveying your deepest values to your own children than to a random co-worker or passerby (though you do need to be aware of the dangers, as the Katy Perry example indicates). The Amish and Mormons have flourished and grown by creating strong local communities with some separation from the rest of the world, and having many children who grow up totally immersed in those communities. That seems to me the most practical and effective way to build a church that will flourish for a thousand generations, not putting off kids to spend more time learning how to argue strangers into being Christans (the world will always need a few William Lane Craigs, but only a few). Ironically, if unbelievers see that Christian communities are thriving places of joy and health and faith, they’ll be much more likely to convert than any blog post could make them.

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