Marrying young …

An assortment of Southern Baptist pastors and officials are encouraging young people to buck the culture, choose a partner, and get married as early as their teens, according to an enlightening article by Bob Allen at Associated Baptist Press.

wedding-blogJon Akin, pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, Tennessee, told USA Today that Southern Baptists used to counsel young people to become financially stable before marriage, but that policy had the effect of encouraging them to have premarital sex. Akin, a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the son of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary president Danny Akin, said “What we’ve communicated to our young people is finances are more important than sexual sin …”

In an op-ed at Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist public relations outlet, Akin and Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, wrote that early marriage “staves off the hormonal rush that comes with sexual temptation” and shouldn’t be considered “a capstone to an already-built career.”

Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has long argued that faithful Christians should marry young and have lots of children. In a 2003 book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, he said boys as young as 17 should be thinking about popping the question, and spoke of “the sin of delaying marriage.”

Most of us probably know someone who got married in their teens and are celebrating 50 or 60 year anniversaries. We also know people who married young but realized later that they had no idea what they’d gotten into, or who weren’t mature enough to deal with the stress associated with financial instability or caring for children, and left the marriage early.

We’ve also known people who married later, with the same potential for success or failure.

Akin and Walker express a legitimate concern about taking a lighthearted approach to premarital sex — and teen marriages would certainly increase the number of couples who didn’t have multiple partners before marriage. One has to be a bit skeptical, however, that marrying younger will lead to marrying better.

Good marriages should be based on far more than having a built-in outlet for the rush of insistent sexual hormones, and I’m sure that proponents of early marriage would agree with that. The timing of marriage should also be based on more than whether one has his or her financial house in order — or whether the bride’s parents have enough credit to finance one of those $25,000-plus weddings that have become popular these days.

Marriage is a matter of the heart, not of the calendar or the checkbook. Loose attitudes toward premarital sex may encourage young people to tie the knot later, but strict pressure to marry or stay celibate could push them into marriages that are doomed from the start.

People mature at different rates, and that’s often influenced by the environment in which they live. Whatever the age, marriage is far more than one-dimensional. It’s about love, a deep love shared by two people who can’t imagine how they could live without each other. It’s about commitment, a desire to stick it out through every stress and stage of life. It’s about companionship, a shared life that includes sex, but is much more than that.

Not everyone is cut out for marriage. For those who are, having a successful marriage is not about how old two people are, but how ready they are. No one knows what the future will bring, but when a couple is
committed to facing it together, their chances are good.

Tony Cartledge

About Tony Cartledge

Tony W. Cartledge is contributing editor of Baptists Today, in addition to teaching Old Testament studies and various ministry courses at Campbell University Divinity School. He formerly served as editor of the Biblical Recorder, newspaper of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and as a pastor for 26 years. Tony is a graduate of the University of Georgia, Southeastern Seminary and Duke University, where he earned a Ph.D. He is the author of several books including the Smyth & Helwys commentary on First and Second Samuel and Telling Stories: Tall Tales and Deep Truths.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for posting on this topic. I am amazed at how Baptist pastors ignore Paul’s teaching on this subject and inject man-made religious traditions instead. Paul makes very clear that sex IS a deciding factor in the decision to marry, because he realized everyone is wired a little differently. If you can’t control your sexual drive, then by all means get married, he says. If sex is not a high priority, you can put it off. And this picture that Christian pastors are giving our young people today, that God has that special someone out there waiting for you, and a husband/wife, 4 kids, a dog and a cat, is the correct outcome for a Christian, is not Biblical. Paul says some should marry (again, using sex as a major criteria), while others should stay single. Christian leaders today are allowing their human desire to fight the culture wars to mould their teaching, rather than Paul’s clear instructions to the churches.

    Reply
  2. Good piece! I was well past 26 when I married and didn’t even have a car. My wife and I didn’t own a stick of furniture. I married well above my own state of maturity and that was the secret…and that was 58 years ago. We had love and didn’t know how poor we were…or care. Generally, I think marrying young is a mistake, especially now when amorality and immorality are the in-thing, even in whole religious denominations. Telling young people that their hormones naturally rule over their mentality to handle their hormones is an insult but that prevailing wisdom roughly beginning with the hippy-dippy flower-children of the 60s amounts to both biological and spiritual blasphemy.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>