Tag Archives: Love

Bible study: responsibilities and obligations in Philippians 1-4

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

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

Philippians 2 talks about the importance of not being self-centered, but instead being focused on the needs of others.

Phil 2:1-8:

2 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,2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 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 partnering with people, and instead of just speaking words like “I care” or “I’ll pray for you”, try to find out what needs to be done and do it. Solve the problem with actions. Prayer is important, of course, because so much of what happens to that other person is in God’s hands. You aren’t going to be around all the time, but God is, so talk to him about the other person and what you’re planning to do. But you must also do your part, and do it intelligently and effectively. (The New Testament book of James talks about the need to accompany good wishes with actions that solve the problem)

Also don’t just stand back and give orders while feeling righteous. Many people want to influence others by just quoting the Bible, putting on pious airs, or using mere words. This doesn’t work in any area of the real world. Instead, take a more active approach. Think about the problem that is preventing someone from serving Christ well, and then act to make it easier for the person to do the right thing.

I’ve been able to achieve good success by praying AND performing supportive actions, rather than by issuing commands or prayer alone. For example, I’ve gotten people to transition for useless careers into IT careers, got them to pay off their high-interest debts, got them to switch their majors from something useless to something useful, got them to move on from an abortion or a divorce, got them to not commit suicide, listened to their health problems, helped them pass the GRE or the GMAT or something, got them to take a better job, got them to do a public speaking engagement, taught them how to debate their atheist brother, sponsored a Christian speaker at their university, helped them recover from bad parents, etc. It’s pretty fun to partner with people to further the Kingdom, but if you just leave it at prayer and giving orders, you won’t get the same good results.

All it takes to move from prayer alone to prayer and solutions is to think about other people like a puzzle, and then sacrifice some of your time or your money to build them up. I have a lot of experience doing this, but it’s not something that I learned to do in church. Church doesn’t teach you to be practical about following the Bible intelligently and with your own initiative. It’s set up to favor emotions (singing) and passive listening. To be active, you have to think about the Bible from a higher strategic level. Think about who Jesus is, and then follow his example. Don’t read the Bible in order to just feel happy or sound pious, instead try to make a plan to really DO good. Your goal should be to achieve a result in line with Jesus’ character and goals.

By the way, part of being able to partner with other people to solve problems with actions is being capable yourself. Don’t study stupid things in college. Don’t get into debt. Don’t try to fill your days with fun and thrills. Instead, study hard things, get hard jobs in the private sector, save your money, and learn useful skills. That way, you’ll be able to do more when something more than passive words or feelings is needed. One time, a woman I knew severely hurt her hand at work. She has OCD, and liked to clean the stairs in her house every day. She has a furry cat who drops fur everywhere. So she was lugging this heavy vacuum up and down the stairs every day. And spending a lot of time ironing with an old-fashioned heavy iron, too. So I bought her a hand vacuum and a fancy new iron. With the extra time she saved, she was able to do more reading, public speaking and helping others. Doing Christianity well means making yourself strong, so you can look after others with more than just feelings, piety and prayers.

Philippians is my favorite book of the Bible. And the most important thing about Philippians 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. It’s good to get down into the weeds of other people’s problems, and act to self-sacrificially to solve them. Read the book (it’s short) and see if there are not people who you could partner with by helping them solve problems so they can be more effective.

Why doesn’t God make his existence more obvious to people?

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going to take a look at the data
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going to take a look at the data

Have you ever heard someone say that if God existed, he would give us more evidence? This is called the “hiddenness of God” argument. It’s also known as the argument from “rational non-belief”.

Basically the argument is something like this:

  1. God is all powerful
  2. God is all loving
  3. God wants all people to know about him
  4. Some people don’t know about him
  5. Therefore, there is no God.

In this argument, the atheist is saying that he’s looked for God real hard and that if God were there, he should have found him by now. After all, God can do anything he wants that’s logically possible, and he wants us to know that he exists. To defeat the argument we need to find a possible explanation of why God would want to remain hidden when our eternal destination depends on our knowledge of his existence.

What reason could God have for remaining hidden?

Dr. Michael Murray, a brilliant professor of philosophy at Franklin & Marshall College, has found a reason for God to remain hidden.

His paper on divine hiddenness is here:
Coercion and the Hiddenness of God“, American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol 30, 1993.

He argues that if God reveals himself too much to people, he takes away our freedom to make morally-significant decisions, including responding to his self-revelation to us. Murray argues that God stays somewhat hidden, so that he gives people space to either 1) respond to God, or 2) avoid God so we can keep our autonomy from him. God places a higher value on people having the free will to respond to him, and if he shows too much of himself he takes away their free choice to respond to him, because once he is too overt about his existence, people will just feel obligated to belief in him in order to avoid being punished.

But believing in God just to avoid punishment is NOT what God wants for us. If it is too obvious to us that God exists and that he really will judge us, then people will respond to him and behave morally out of self-preservation. But God wants us to respond to him out of interest in him, just like we might try to get to know someone we admire. God has to dial down the immediacy of the threat of judgment, and the probability that the threat is actual. That leaves it up to us to respond to God’s veiled revelation of himself to us, in nature and in Scripture.

(Note: I think that we don’t seek God on our own, and that he must take the initiative to reach out to us and draw us to him. But I do think that we are free to resist his revelation, at which point God stops himself short of coercing our will. We are therefore responsible for our own fate).

The atheist’s argument is a logical/deductive argument. It aims to show that there is a contradiction between God’s will for us and his hiding from us. In order to derive a contradiction, God MUST NOT have any possible reason to remain hidden. If he has a reason for remaining hidden that is consistent with his goodness, then the argument will not go through.

When Murray offers a possible reason for God to remain hidden in order to allow people to freely respond to him, then the argument is defeated. God wants people to respond to him freely so that there is a genuine love relationship – not coercion by overt threat of damnation. To rescue the argument, the atheist has to be able to prove that God could provide more evidence of his existence without interfering with the free choice of his creatures to reject him.

Murray has defended the argument in works published by prestigious academic presses such as Cambridge University Press, (ISBN: 0521006104, 2001) and Routledge (ISBN: 0415380383, 2007).

Positive arguments for Christian theism

The downside of the soul mate / fairy tale view of relationships

 

Husband and wife doing some woodworking together

(Image: Husband and wife doing some woodworking together)

Astonishing article from the leftist Huffington Post, of all places. (links removed)

Excerpt:

As millennial women, we were groomed for a white knight fantasy. From childhood favorites such as Snow White to adult rom-com staples such as How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days or Sleepless in Seattle, the media perpetuates a romantic storyline in which compatibility and lasting romance is something effortless, built on chance, sustained by good looks, fun dates and electric sexual chemistry. These story lines shape our expectations for romantic happiness. It is not enough to find someone with whom we are mostly compatible, who would make a good parent, with whom we could learn and grow wrinkly; now, we expect a perfect fit and an easy, instantaneous “connection.” In short, we want a soul mate. But it is this desire for a soul mate that is actually the undoing of our happy ending.

A “soul mate” is defined as one who is ideally suited to us, perfectly completes us, one with whom the relationship feels easy and natural. With them, a relationship is just “meant to be”… A survey of young adults conducted by the National Marriage Project found that while 84% of young adults report finding a marriage partner “very important,” a full 94% of young adults say they would like to marry a soul mate, and 73% of people ages 18 – 29 believe that there is a soul mate out there for them.

Wow. That doesn’t sound like a good approach to me. My approach has always been to pick the girl who was most willing to learn new things. And then to explain to her my vision for marriage and see if I could get her to work independently on that plan before I married her. I don’t favor this soul mate approach at all.

Does the “soul mate” approach work?

We heard that those who get married later and possess a college degree have fewer divorces and more stable marriages. So we spend our twenties trying to find ourselves through travel, accumulating degrees and building a career. Marriage will be the capstone of our achievements, and nothing less than tying the knot with a soul mate will suffice. But the tragic irony is that soul mate thinking makes us increasingly likely to divorce. A study of 1,400 married men and women shows that people who hold soul mate orientations are 150% more likely to end up divorced than those who do not.

The widespread cultural belief in “soul mate ideology” undermines our chances at happiness because it makes us passive receivers of idyllic romantic expectations. Further, it fosters self-centeredness; one rarely longs to be a soul mate for someone else, which would require effort. For this reason, believing in soul mates is one of the most dis-empowering belief systems we can adopt. As millennials, we pride ourselves on actively pursuing the life we want to live, rather than simply accepting whatever hand we are dealt. We are innovative, passionate, proactive and not afraid to take risks. Yet, there is a disconnect when it comes to our desire for lasting love. Though there are prospects around us, we forgo taking the concrete steps needed to build happy compatible relationships because we do not “feel a spark.” We are passively waiting on the sidelines for love to “happen,” and then wonder why it is so difficult.

I’ve always felt that the soul mate approach was like the evil villain in opposition to my noble plan-based approach. My approach is to pick a woman who wants to learn and work hard. Explain your marriage plan to her, and how your marriage plan serves God. My marriage plan accomplishes four goals, for example. 1) Influence the university with apologetics, 2) influence the church with apologetics, 3) provide a model of a good marriage to people in the community, including co-workers, college students and neighbors, and 4) raise effective, influential children who will have an impact for God. Now if you are a Christian woman raised in a church that affirms the soul mate / fairy tale view of marriage with this “God has a wonderful plan for your life” stuff, then a specific, non-emotional plan from a man is the last thing you want to hear about.

Their solution is for people to work at compatibility:

Compatibility is something co-created through intentionality and conscious choice. It involves mutual sacrifice, effort and commitment for the sake of the other’s benefit. A recent study found that of the couples who demonstrate above average daily generosity, 50% of them report being “very happy” in marriage; among the low generosity scores, only 14% can say the same. As studies indicate, selflessness is required to create mutual compatibility. It is not instantaneous, nor does it usually begin with true love’s kiss.

We both know from experience that there are some you naturally connect with and others you do not. This is not a call towards forced attraction or companionship. But, our romantic futures should not be placed in the hands of blind chance. It is time we roll up our sleeves and shift our expectations from unattainable perfection to realistic romance, one that accounts for imperfection. We must understand that work in a relationship is a necessary key to success, rather than an indication of imminent failure. We will be letting go of a tired plot line that sets us up for disappointment and embracing an active role in our own unique story.

How refreshing to know that we do not have to be perfect to be lovable, and that our romantic success is not solely dependent on finding the “right” fit, but instead built through cultivating daily moments of generosity, sacrifice and conscious coupling.

So in my case, I am looking for a woman who listens to the plan, develops the skills for the plan and then independently engages in activities to achieve the goals of the plan. In the past, I have had women listen to the plan carefully, including my motivations and experiences that caused me to choose this plan. And they have been willing to read books, listen to lectures, watch debates, to gain the skills needed to make a difference. And they have even engaged independently with activities like public speaking, teaching classes, and so forth. But none of the women who had done that accepted the soul mate / fairy tale view of marriage. They all wanted to hear a good plan, learn useful skills and then get to work. Big difference.

Why should a woman marry a man while she’s still under 25?

Married men seem to enjoy a boost in earnings from age 23-43
Married men seem to enjoy a boost in earnings between age 22-45

I saw a bunch of pro-marriage friends were tweeting about this article from the St. Louis Federal Reserve which talks about how well married men do financially compared to single men, and using it as a reason to argue that men should get married. The article from the St. Louis Reserve doesn’t have much commentary, but this article from the far-left Washington Post by Brad Wilcox has a lot to say.

Excerpt:

Marriage has a transformative effect on adult behavior, emotional health, and financial well-being—particularly for men.

[…]Men who get married work harder and more strategically, and earn more money than their single peers from similar backgrounds. Marriage also transforms men’s social worlds; they spend less time with friends and more time with family; they also go to bars less and to church more.

[…]Our research, featured in a recent report, “For Richer, For Poorer: How Family Structures Economic Success in America,” indicates that men who are married work about 400 hours more per year  than their single peers with equivalent backgrounds. They also work more strategically: one Harvard study found that married men were much less likely than their single peers to quit their current job unless they had lined up another job.

This translates into a substantial marriage premium for men. On average, young married men, aged 28-30, make $15,900 more than their single peers, and married men aged 44-46 make $18,800 more than their single peers.

That’s even after controlling for differences in education, race, ethnicity, regional unemployment, and scores on a test of general knowledge. What’s more: the marriage premium operates for black, Hispanic, and less-educated men in much the same way as it does for men in general.

For instance, men with a high-school degree or less make at least $17,000 more than their single peers.

So, what about these differences between married men and single men? Are men able to earn more if they have a wife to support them and care for their needs? Or is it just that women prefer men who are already able to take care of themselves?

Well, in most cases, it’s the former:

2. Married men are motivated to maximize their income. For many men, this responsibility ethic translates into a different orientation toward work, more hours, and more strategic work choices. Sociologist Elizabeth Gorman finds that married men are more likely to value higher-paying jobs than their single peers.

This is partly why studies find that men increase their work hours after marrying and reduce their hours after divorcing. It’s also why married men are less likely to quit a current job without finding a new job. Indeed, they are also less likely to be fired than their single peers.

3. Married men benefit from the advice and encouragement of their wives. Although there is less research on this, we suspect that men also work harder and more strategically because they are encouraged to do so by their wives, who have an obvious interest in their success. One study appears to buttress this point, finding that men with better-educated wives earn more, even after controlling for their own education.

4. Employers like married men with children.  There is evidence that employers  prefer and promote men who are married with children, especially compared to their childless male peers and to mothers. Married men are often seen as more responsible and dedicated workers and are rewarded with more opportunities by employers. While illegal bias and long-held stereotypes appear to play a role in this historic preference, it nonetheless helps explain why married family men get paid more.

Now what’s the purpose of me writing this? Well, I’m actually NOT writing this to pressure men to get married. Why not? Because although marriage was a pretty good deal 100 years ago, it’s not as good of a deal under the current laws and policies, e.g. – no-fault divorce, the threats of false accusations, the Sexual Revolution, etc. So I wouldn’t advise a man to rush into marriage to just anybody in order to get the financial (and health) benefits of having a wife. Marriage is only safe when you choose a woman carefully.

But I am writing this to women who are being told by the culture to delay marriage, and especially to delay marriage to use your youth and beauty to “have fun” with boys who won’t commit to marriage. If a woman loves a marriage-focused man and really wants to take care of him and support him, then early marriage is one of the very best ways to really help him during the years (22-45) when it really makes a difference. Marrying a man who wants marriage when you’re still young means that he will have many, many measurable benefits.

It’s important to marry a man when the marriage has the potential to do the most good for him in areas like health, career, finances and children. Men typically don’t want to marry women who are older, because they have more sexual experience and because they get used to giving a man sex in order to get him to do what she wants. Once a woman gets used to doing this, it becomes much harder to trust a good man to lead, and to give a man respect as a leader.

In addition, men know that women never change who they are really attracted to. If a woman chooses superficially attractive men who won’t commit over and over, then even if she “settles” for a man later on, she probably won’t be able to be attracted him. Men know not to choose women who won’t value them for their traditional moral values, conservative politics and ability to perform traditional male roles like providing. Men know that a woman who feels that she is “settling” for less than she deserves is more likely to disrespect him, and to withhold sex from him.

Now pro-marriage parents and pro-marriage pastors will typically tell you that they want to let their daughters decide when to marry, so that they will be happy having “fun” before marriage, and happy being provided for after marriage. But when those women are done playing the field and in their mid-thirties, their relatives and pastors are not thinking about what men’s interests are. They’re thinking about how to get this woman married, regardless of the man’s interests. And men know that. So they aren’t going to be bullied or shamed into a marriage after the window when it benefits them has closed. If parents and pastors want their daughters married AT ALL, then they need to encourage women to be self-controlled and marriage-focused EARLY.

What do research studies say about the bond between fathers and daughters?

Texas senator Ted Cruz, his wife Heidi Cruz and their two daughters
Texas senator Ted Cruz, his wife Heidi Cruz and their two daughters

Many people today think that biological fathers are not essential for raising daughters. In fact, we even support this view by passing no-fault divorce laws, single-mother welfare laws, and by opposing shared parenting laws. The story goes that children do fine without their biological father in the home. Having children is something that women decide to do, and the man is superfluous. So I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at the research.

Here is a recent article from the centrist Institute for Family Studies.

It says:

The dynamic between fathers and their daughters has been characterized by one expert as the most “fragile and unstable” when compared to other parent-child relationships.1 It can be further described as one of the most powerful and vital relationships to individuals, communities, and nations. For instance, fathers have a profound impact on their daughters’ body image,clinical depression, eating disorders,self-esteem, and life satisfaction,to name but a few.

But of all the unique contributions a father makes in his daughter’s life, perhaps there is none of greater significance than in the area of sexual development and activity and romantic relationships.

  • Numerous studies have discovered female pubertal timing occurs later in girls whose fathers are consistently present in their life.5
  • An extensive body of research has revealed that early pubertal maturation in girls is associated with a variety of negative biological, psychological, and social outcomes, including, mood disorders,substance abuse,adolescent pregnancy,and a variety of cancers of the reproductive system.9
  • Fatherless daughters are seven times more likely to become pregnant as teens.10

[…]The conditions in our culture of both rampant fatherlessness and sexual promiscuity are incompatible with forming secure and healthy relationships with boys and with establishing stable families for the next generation. A young girl’s sexual development can significantly outpace her neurological and emotional development—the very resources needed to guide her sexual choices.

Herein lies the danger. Much of our culture today promotes sexual activity but void of healthy attachment or true intimacy. There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that high levels of father involvement (regardless of dad’s marital status) are predictive of high levels of intimacy, commitment, and trust in young female adults’ romantic relationships; whereas low levels of father involvement are predictive of the opposite.11

And:

How a father treats both his daughter and her mother can help a young woman feel safe and secure in her relationships with the boys and men in her life, including her future husband. Family scientists and evolutionary psychologists have discovered that girls appear to be born with an emotional, relational, and evolutionary void that a father is designated to fill. If left vacant, girls will be more likely to seek to fill it in with other, unhealthier substitutes. The father-daughter relationship is the one that best teaches young women about true love and intimacy, self-worth, and respect.

Professor Linda Nielsen summarized this in one profound sentence: “[T]he father has the greater impact on the daughter’s ability to trust, enjoy, and relate well to the males in her life.”

So, a father’s love keeps her from getting into relationships with boys before the boys are ready to commit to her. By the way, I don’t think that boys should even be allowed to TALK to girls about a relationship, unless they have a STEM degree, and two years of private sector work experience. I really hate when unemployed, penniless boys waste a girl’s time when they can’t afford to commit to her. People think I am pretty rough on women, but I really am much meaner to men who don’t have STEM degrees and gapless resumes. (I guess a skilled trade would work as well, in place of the STEM degree – something like electrician, for example).

Anyway, back to the research. When a woman is deciding which men to have sex with, she has to be thinking of more than just her own needs. She has to choose a man who is going to stick around long enough to raise her daughters, so that they grow up with the confidence to resist the advances of boys who aren’t ready to commit. To be pro-woman means to be pro-daughter, and that means that women need to be persuaded to be careful about the choice of sex partner, and the timing of sexual activity. This is why people used to keep sex for marriage in the past: to protect children by making sure that they would get the stability and engagement they need from their parents.

Also, I have talked about the research about father-son bond in a different post.

If you want to do right for your children, then you need to control yourself and make wise choices. And if you’re struggling to make good choices, then don’t leave it up to your emotions and peer approval. Disregard your emotions. Disregard peer approval. Instead, let your decision-making be guided by your Christian convictions, and strengthened with scientific evidence. The Bible tells you not to have sex before you’re married, and science tells you why this is good policy. The Bible gives you the goals, and science tells you how to how the world works, so you know how to make plans that will make sure you are never in a place where you are pressured to do the wrong thing. The more science you pack into your head, the easier it will be for you to convince yourself to do the right thing, and to convince your partner to do the right thing. Science takes moral decision-making outside the realm of feelings and opinions.

And if your partner says “I don’t care about the needs of our future children”, then you have a good reason to dump them and move on. You can’t be in a relationship with someone who thinks that children’s needs are less important than adult desires. In fact, the whole design for relationships should start with what children need from the marriage and parents, and work backward from there to the obligations on the man and the woman. And men and women ought to discuss this. What are we trying to achieve with this relationship anyway? And what is the right way to achieve it? This is where the research comes in – it shows you how to do it right.

Research from the Heritage Foundation