Is Marriage Becoming Obsolete?

Posted on November 22, 2010 · Posted in Culture, Worldview

Is marriage becoming obsolete? Apparently a growing number of Americans think so. An article in the November 17 edition of USA Today Online states that “among the 2,691 adults surveyed by the Pew Research Center last month, 39% say marriage is becoming obsolete, up from 28% who responded to the same question posed in 1978 by Time magazine, which participated in the survey.”

USA Today Online also reports that “census data reflect a declining percentage of married adults: 54% in 2010, down from 57% in 2000, and 72% in 1960. Also changing is the view of what constitutes a family. In September of this year, Pew Research polling data found that in America:

•    80% say an unmarried couple living together with a child is a family;

•    63% say a gay or lesbian couple raising a child is a family.

  • 54% say a cohabiting couple with no children is not a family.”

In a related article from USA Today we find two more observations about marriage and family:  “Families are more diverse and the structure of them is more in flux,” says sociologist Kelly Musick of Cornell University. “One of the things that’s happened is people have lot [sic] more leeway to design the families that work for them.”

Stephanie Coontz, a professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., who assisted the Pew research team, says people think today of “family as a relationship rather than an institution. If you have a close relationship and act committed, then you count as family,” she says. “If you’re making obligations to partners and kids, you get counted as family, as opposed to older ways of thinking when it was purely the legal definition.”

People have a lot more leeway to design the families that work for them. These findings make a bold assumption—man, not God, is the designer of the family. From this perspective, the presence of children in a committed relationship determines whether or not a family exists. People living together without children are not thought to be a family. But add children to the mix and a family is deemed to have been established. Same-sex couples thus qualify as a family if children are present.

No wonder marriage appears to be obsolete! People can design family groups as they please by simply adding a child to the living arrangement. What is under siege is the biblical doctrine that marriage is a one-flesh relationship. This relationship was given by God for the express purpose of companionship between a man and a woman, and it includes—but does not require—the role of raising children. That marriage relationship is modeled by Christ’s relationship to his church. This model offers relational stability in families. As the Bible has been increasingly tossed aside as the blueprint for living, man has filled the vacuum by crafting his own version of commitment. Because of this we can expect more, not less, relational problems to evolve. So if two people say they are in a committed relationship (whatever that may mean) and they include children in their household, they are now a family.

Men are no longer needed to lead their homes. Women who view themselves as helpers to their husbands are considered foolish—entrapped by obsolete values. Children no longer need to come by virtue of sexual activity in marriage. They can now be acquired in any number of alternative ways. Adoption, properly viewed as a holy and honorable way to incorporate children into a family defined by biblical parameters, is now the option of convenience for same-sex couples to legitimize their understanding of family.

The sexual revolution of the sixties is now complete. There is no public outcry regarding sex outside of marriage, unless you happen to be a politician or a world-famous golfer. Sex is available to all in any form imaginable. This is the end game of secular-humanist doctrine—man is free from the outdated notions of a God with absolute authority. Secular-humanism was officially birthed with the signing of the Humanist Manifesto in 1933. This manifesto was embraced by leading American educators who began promoting their values in the halls of academia. Within one generation the sexual revolution began. Within two generations of the signing of this manifesto, leaders in higher education now declare that people can design the makeup of families in whatever ways that work for them. The social institution of marriage, the foundation of western civilization, has been swept aside within the space of 80 years. No, the Humanist Manifesto did not target marriage as the enemy to be displaced. Marriage was merely the diversionary target. The real objective was to remove any vestige of God from the educational process.

The real question that needs to be asked is not whether marriage is obsolete, but whether God is obsolete. Notice that in the Pew surveys and the USA Today articles, God and his Word are not even considered to be players in this discussion. This was the objective of John Dewey and the other signers of the original Humanist Manifesto—to take God out of the public square.

So, is all hope lost? Are we locked into the vision of humanists?

Of course not! But Christians must realize that modern culture has been taken captive by the philosophies of this world (Colossians 2:8). That is why we must return to the message of the gospel. Much valuable ground has been lost. The forces of hell (read humanists) cannot prevail against the church that is committed to the message of the gospel. Because the church has not effectively countered the attacks of humanists, your children will grow up in a culture that believes that the family is something that serves man’s desires for sexual freedom. Having a mother and a father who live together and are committed first to God and then to each other, for life, is a principle that has become foreign to our culture and our educational values. As Christians, we must come to terms with this reality. Changed hearts, not changed laws, will be the difference maker.

Tell your children about King Jesus every day. Encourage them with the power of the gospel. Work together with leaders in your church to pray for the gospel to capture the hearts of a culture surrendered to humanism. Work to make your marriage and family all that God says it should be. Have compassion on a lost and groping culture that will only create more relational havoc as they turn from God and his design for marriage and family. Have courage; God will never leave us or forsake us. The family is what God says that it is. Period.

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This post is from the latest edition of the Shepherd Press Newsletter. The newsletter is a good way to introduce your friends and members of your church to Shepherd Press. Please consider passing on this link.

Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.