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The Gospel & the Culture Against Marriage

Is marriage in deep trouble here in America?  Al Mohler thinks so and has written a thought-provoking article on the state of marriage in the United States.  In case you don’t know him, Mohler is the president of the SBC’s flagship seminary, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He’s also a frequent speaker, author, and convention leader.  In my opinion, he’s also the leading Evangelical cultural commentator, and with this article on the state of marriage in America, he points us toward some very troubling trends that should cause us to step up and take notice.  He writes:

And the demographics? Brace yourselves. In 1960, 70 percent of all American adults were married. Now, that number is just over half. Eight times as many children are born out of wedlock as compared to that same year. In the 1960s, two-thirds of all young adults in their twenties were married. Now, only 26 percent of twenty-somethings are married.

Statistics can inform or misinform, and it is possible to find statistical support that puts a happier face on the health of marriage. But in order to find these happier statistics, it is necessary to redefine the question. For example, some marriage defenders will assert, accurately, that most Americans will at some point be married. But that fact lowers the question of marriage to the minimalist level of “at some point.” By any honest measure, marriage is in big trouble.

When Belinda Luscombe argues that marriage is “in purely practical terms just not as necessary as it used to be,” she has a rationale to back up her argument. “Neither men nor women need to be married to have sex or companionship or professional success or respect or even children.” All that is true — when marriage is viewed on the canvas of American culture. Marriage no longer regulates sex. The Sexual Revolution severed sex from marriage in a social sense, and the arrival of The Pill offered a pharmaceutical means of severing sex from reproduction. No-fault divorce arrived as a legal accommodation to marital impermanence, effectively redefining both marital and family law in the process. Social status and professional expectations were liberated from the question of marriage, and many feminists declared that marriage itself was an impediment to the full liberation of women.

And yet, Luscombe ends her argument about the “not as necessary as it used to be” status of marriage with these words — “yet marriage remains revered and desired.” Really? Well, that all depends on how you define reverence and desire.

TIME reports that 40 percent of Americans believe that marriage is now obsolete, up from 28 percent in 1978. Cohabitation is now the norm for American adults — not just before marriage, but increasingly instead of marriage. And American cohabitation is an exceedingly weak arrangement. As Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University explains, Americans “have the shortest cohabiting relationships of any wealthy country in the world.” Less than half of all Americans believe that cohabitation is morally wrong.

Divorce is now an institutionalized part of American life, complete now with an industry putting out divorce announcements, greeting cards, and party plans. The American divorce rate, though now somewhat stable, is so disastrously high that even social scientists are shocked. As Professor Cherlin remarked: “One statistic I saw when writing my book that floored me was that a child living together with unmarried parents in Sweden has a lower chance that his family will disrupt than does a child living with married parents in the U.S.”

These statistics are absolutely shocking!  Now, only 26% of twenty-somethings are married.  Can this be?  Of course, this statistic fuels the rate of children being born out of wedlock because although marriage is being delayed, sex isn’t.  Cohabitation is becoming way more regular and actually replacing marriage.  And divorce party plans?  {sighhhhh}

What we see is a culture concerning the family that is tragically unbiblical.  We as the church of Jesus Christ, now more than ever, need to stand up.  However, the ultimate answer I believe is not found in the plans of groups like the Moral Majority.  Although I deeply respect their heart and believe that their cause was worthy, at this rate, we will be in the not too distant future the moral minority.  Furthermore, we will not change people’s minds through legislation.  Yes, we can restrain evil, but we cannot transform hearts.  That only happens through hearing of the gospel and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit leading to faith.  The gospel is the ultimate answer.  Therefore, if we want to see these trends curtailed, the church must once again be mobilized as a domestic missionary force.  We as Christians talk about evangelizing a lot, particularly we Southern Baptists, but are we actually doing it?  I feel safe in saying that we are not.

No, redeeming our culture is not our primary goal for the world.  You see, our increasingly godless culture is merely a symptom of mankind’s sinful rebellion against God.  The culture will be redeemed when people come to faith and submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ.  Therefore, evangelization is our primary goal for the world.  The culture then will begin to correct itself as it comes under the authority of God’s Word.  May these statistics sharpen our resolve to take Jesus to the lost so that they may believe and have abundant life in this life and the life to come!

You can read Mohler’s complete article here.


  1. This is a very interesting but disturbing article. I was fortunate to grow up in the 50’s and 60’s and had one set of parents. Today there are too many children with different last names than their parents.

    • John, the part that I appreciated so much about Mohler’s article is how he tied the demise of marriage to four major movements: the sexual revolution which made marriage and monogamy less attractive to the world, the reproductive revolution which brought birth control to the masses, the divorce revolution which has worked to make marriage so easily dissolvable, and the feminist revolution which has sought to teach women that marriage and family hold them back. With you growing up in the 50s & 60s, you’ve gotten to see all of these come to pass. The landscape is certainly very different today. Thanks for jumping into the conversation!

    • Jerry, you’re right. Marriage problems are always heart issues. Our marriages specifically and all of our relationships in general will be better as we become more like Jesus. I’m thankful that He who began a good work in you and me is faithful to complete it!

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