Wednesday 21 August 2013

Why get married, why have children? The reason must be very strong (as well as believed)


Given the multiple alternative satisfactions and the many-many reasons for saying 'not yet' (delaying and delaying...), to get married and have children (in the modern world, and especially for those who are in higher social classes) means to put this at the centre of life: as number one priority.

So the reason for the whole needful M&F package of remaining chaste until marriage, getting married young, staying married, having children, having as many children as can decently be raised without the probable need for extra-family assistance - to do all this in a world which encourages and rewards and accords status to doing pretty much the opposite... well, the reason has to be a very strong reason indeed.


But - quite aside from whether or not people believe them - for many or most people the traditional mainstream Christian reasons for getting married are just not strong enough in today's context.

The traditional reasons are true, and they used to be strong enough; but now they are true but not strong enough - because the forces of secular hedonism have grown and grown in power and pervasiveness, and now overwhelm the traditional rationale for marriage and family. 

These traditional reasons are (in no particular order) 1. Sex without sin. 2. Companionship. 3. To have children.


1. Sex without sin... most modern people don't feel sin in relation to sex, and sin can be repented, and marriage does not necessarily lead to sex - or at least not of the quantity and quality which is desired...

But more fundamentally, many traditional Christians believe that sex is sin, and the ideal is not to have sex.

Eastern and Western Catholic traditions therefore believe that marriage is a second best to celibacy; a compromise between an ideal of no sex and the actuality of uncontrollable lust. So, on this basis, married Christians are being asked to put a second-rate compromise at the centre of their life! Hardly an inspiring prospect...


What about Protestant traditions? Protestants reject the religious life - that is to say they reject the existence of an organised celibate life in the Church (among Priests, Monks, Friars, Nuns etc)  - which would presumably imply, indirectly, that Protestants embrace marriage as the primary life path.

Yet the actual grounds given for marriage are almost-wholly negative - the Protestant attitude is that the life of 'a religious' is bad, rather than that marriage is good in and of itself. The grounds for the primacy of marriage are therefore stated in terms almost identical to the Catholic perception of a second-rate compromise, but without any alternative provision for the celibate life.

In sum, the only sense in which Protestants have a 'higher' valuation of marriage than Catholics is that nothing higher than marriage is acknowledged as valid - i.e. Protestants do not (in practice) acknowledge that celibacy is higher than marriage.

So marriage has ended as 'top of the heap' only because celibate monasticism has been knocked off its perch; and not because marriage is more highly valued by Protestants than Catholics.


2. Companionship... but marriage is not needed for this; nor does modern marriage undermined by unilateral no-fault-divorce-on-demand provide a strong guarantee even of companionship.

And (according to mainstream traditional Christian doctrine) the companionship of marriage is, at most, until death - so it is at best merely something to help you get through until death. And you might die soon.

And however long mortal life may be, in comparison to the hoped-for eternity after life the span of a human life is almost nothing.

A concept of marriage as companionship-unto-death is not - surely? - the kind of ideal that would inspire really significant here-and-now, this world, life and lifestyle sacrifices.


3. To have children... this usually reduces to some argument based on social statistics that the average marriage makes a better environment for raising kids than the alternatives - but these are just averages; and anyway, who bases their whole life on data derived from social science research?

And young people nowadays don't want to have children - or at least 'not yet', and not many; and anyway, there is about a 1/10 chance that you won't be able to have children even if you do get married.

And the argument is circular: we marry in order to have children, whose main function in life is... to have children.

To defend marriage primarily on the basis that it is a means to the end of having children, or to creating a good environment for children, is therefore an argument full of holes and exceptions.


Marriage as merely a second rate compromise to celibacy; marriage as merely an insecure means to the end of a restrictive form of companionship to get you through to death; marriage as merely a statistically probably beneficial means to the end of children...

None of the traditional Christian reasons for marriage (and the behavioural package that marriage as a primary priority entails) have much traction against the prevailing mainstream secular imperatives such as money, formal 'education', fun, sex, license/ freedom, distraction and so on - all of which counsel not yet, the risk is too great, first you need to..., pie in the sky, wait until...

For Christians, therefore - in the environment of today - it is not necessarily enough merely to have people believe and therefore take seriously the traditional arguments in favour of marriage and family.

Because even if people do believe and believe these arguments, they are not very strong arguments as compared with the powerful incentives of the societal situation working against them.


To recapitulate - the reasons for making marriage and family the focus of earthly life need to be strong enough to justify what will be perceived as numerous sacrifices of worldly goods. In fact, since marriage ought normally to be by the early twenties, young Christians are being asked to take a very different life-path than their contemporaries - and this especially applies to women, and especially intelligent women.

Intelligent women are being asked not to place college and job at the centre, but to constrain and even forgo these opportunities in so far as they conflict with the M&F imperative - to do this, reasons must be strong.

Even if intelligent women do - for a while - follow the mainstream path in relation to college and careers - they are being asked to forgo the mainstream 'recreational lifestyle' - the lifestyle focused on sex and relationships, fashion and gossip, parties and travel, getting attention and participating in emotional psychodramas - which lifestyle is the near exclusive focus of life among modern young women outwith the realms of education and career - and the staple of fiction, news, soaps and the mass media generally.


So the question boils down to this: what kind of a thing, what kind of ideal of marriage and children might in principle make it worthwhile for able and intelligent young women to forgo almost the whole life and lifestyle package of secular modernism, and instead opt for an extremely different (and socially disvalued) alternative path?

Given the lack of any guarantee and the probability of falling short and failing - the hoped for ideal of marriage and family must be commensurately stronger:


The ideal married union must be more powerful, more intense and more enduring than mere companionship until death; the hopes in relation to children must be more profound than mere genetic replication, and hopes for their future of greater significance than 'mere' health, happiness and fertility.

This is what is needed: a way of presenting marriage and family as not just the highest available Christian path; but a Christian path potentially of intense and permanent significance - one which it is well worth having as the focus of earthly life.


That's the theory - but how plausible is it to make such vast claims for the ideal state of marriage and family - above and beyond the explicit claims of mainstream traditional churches?

Is it just made-up, wishful thinking, pie in the sky?

The answer is that it is very plausible in the sense that there are significant numbers of people for whom this ideal is a matter of personal reality and observation; albeit, like all ideals, only known temporarily and glimpsed imperfectly.


So there are people who can put their hands upon their hearts, and say with a certainty borne of direct experiential knowledge, that this extraordinarily elevated view of marriage and family is both possible and true.

Not all such people are Christians, not by any means; but those who are Christians may find themselves in the regrettable position of being unable to explain their deepest and most convincing 'intimations of immortality' (or intuitions of Heaven) in terms of their Christian faith - but must instead regard their most powerful life experiences un-Christian or non-Christian, and may indeed come to disregard and undervalue them.


What is needed is to conceptualize - simply and clearly and powerfully - the best experiences of marriage and family in a fully Christian context, so that young Christians planning their lives can be influenced by the truths known by older generations of Christians.

So they can recognize that the sacrifices are potentially worthwhile, because it is a matter of personal experience and certain knowledge that in many people's lives nothing on earth can exceed the rewards of marriage and family.

That is a fact; what I am saying is that the fact needs to be made explicable to Christians.



K said...


If you already haven't, you should read paper "Why Have Children?" by G.E.M. Anscombe.

or in this blogpost;

Bruce Charlton said...


Interesting, but I don't see any point where she actually gives an argument why to have children!

You may be interested by this:

The Inkling Robert 'Humphrey' Harvard mentioned in a memoir of CS Lewis:

'Miss Anscombe...had perhaps the most acute intelligence of anyone in Oxford. She out-argued Lewis, who later remarked: "Of course, she is far more intelligent than either of us."'

Despite the very inverse strong correlation between intelligence (and years of education) and fertility in women, GEM Anscombe nonetheless had seven children. No hypocrite, then!

Donald said...

Another great post.

As you know I favor the "marriage as path of theosis" view. The symbolism of the crowning in marriage (and the lack of crowning if one has a subsequent marriage) also seems very apt to conceptualize this ordaining of "King and Queen" as extending well beyond death. In fact a sacramental/Holy Mystery really doesn't make any sense to me how such a thing could not exist with some eternal permanence (although I find the idea of intercourse in heaven just 'not right', although I've never been).

This could be contrasted with a 'natural union' (or natural marriage) which would not be sinful and fulfills the natural needs and purposes of human nature.

The 'mechanism' of instituting a Roman Catholic marriage (by contract of the consenting parties) is silly, as is the 'annulment' after 10 yrs and 3 kids because one of the members wasn't able to give full consent. In Eastern Orthodoxy there is ecclesiastical divorce under divine economia as the sacrament is instituted by the priest. There is also the betrothal and ring exchange which happens in the narthex, where essentially the earthly natural promises are made, and only afterwards the crowning.

I also very much favour the idea of conceptualizing the married couple as Patriarch and Matriarch of the family. Perhaps there is an ego influence for me but "Your wife will be like a fruitful vine in your house. Your children will be like olive branches around your table" and "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate."

Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

many traditional Christians believe that sex is sin, and the ideal is not to have sex

They should get acquainted with John Paul II's Theology of the Body, the quintessence of Catholic thought about the calling to sanctity through marriage and family.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Donald - An Orthodox theocracy, with a unity of what would elsewhere be sacred and secular - and in which every aspect of life is brought into Christianity (and the monarch as the father of his people, father of his family, representative of Christ on earth) can certainly achieve a positive ideal of marriage.

However, that is not the situation anywhere in the world, and absent such a situation Orthodoxy has not shown itself (*so far*) able to resist the denigration of marriage and family when in the very different context of secular modernity.

JP said...

She garnered controversy when she publicly opposed Britain's entry into World War II...

In 1956, while a research fellow at Oxford University, she protested against Oxford's decision to grant an honorary degree to Harry S. Truman, whom she denounced as a mass murderer for his use of atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Bah, it is hard to respect the author of such infantilisms.

Gabe Ruth said...

Anscombe is pointing to the distorted attitude that asks the question in the first place. There is no arguing with a mind that accepts it as valid.

One of the convictions I have reached is that the only source of good in the world is the individual human making a conscious choice (aside from supernatural activity, of which the former is a special case I guess). So when you talk about the need for better marketing of the Christian life, I must shake my head. Do I misunderstand you in some way? Are you not simply talking about marketing? Even your discussions of philosophy are framed this way, focusing on the importance of appealing naturally to most people.

You're part of the reason I know this! Dr. Charlton, do you ever go back and read things you've written in the not too distant past? I suspect you might find it a bit confusing.

But a little more on topic, regarding your traditional reasons.

1. I don't think many Christians really believe that sex is inherently sinful, but even if they did, why would it be so bad to believe that one cannot achieve (or is not called to) the height of spiritual accomplishment in this life? Further, I think that if one understands that our ultimate goal is union with God, it is fairly easy to see that marriage is a means to theosis, in the sense that, more so than any other relationship it can lead to self-forgetting love, even more so when it leads to children. But again, this is not something that you can be logically convinced of before experiencing it. First, you accept the primacy of theosis, then you take stock of your strengths and weaknesses and see that you are unlikely to experience celibacy as anything but torture, and your path is clear.

2. If you assume a modern understanding of marriage, the discussion is over. Rejecting this, why is the till death so bad? As a practical matter, I've always assumed that the main reason for that aspect of marriage is so that re-marriage after a pre-mature death of one spouse is not hindered. If you also assume that marriage is a crutch that you won't need after death, again, you are not really understanding why we're here, and the greater purpose of life and marriage's role in it. And if you see the apparent here-and-now sacrifices as an onerous burden, what's the point of this discussion?

3. As you say, who looks to social science stats to make this decision? So can the argument from children really be reduced to "studies show etc."? Rather, one must humble oneself to avoid thinking that declining children is an acceptable decision. One's purpose is not to have children, they are a blessing that often comes in the course of a well-lived life. It is not necessary to even believe they are a blessing in advance, though it helps. All that is necessary is an understanding of the true goal, and of the impediments to it.

"but those who are Christians may find themselves in the regrettable position of being unable to explain their deepest and most convincing 'intimations of immortality' (or intuitions of Heaven) in terms of their Christian faith - but must instead regard their most powerful life experiences un-Christian or non-Christian, and may indeed come to disregard and undervalue them."

This is total nonsense. Sometimes you speak as if in churches around the world families are regarded as embarrassing concessions to lust. I can tell you from personal experience that I am sometimes embarrassed by how warmly people in my church treat me when I'm with my family, and speak to me as if I am doing something extraordinary in having children. Now that is unfortunate (that it is unusual enough to be notable) but it is far from people doubting the high value of the enterprise.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JP - I don't like Anscombe's writings, and in many respects she was a very typical upper class Clever Silly. Still, having seven kids and gaining such a high professional reputation was undeniably impressive.

@GK - My critique cuts much deeper than you give credit - this really has been a long term problem with Christianity in most times and places; but most in previous eras Christianity 'got away with it' due to the lack of powerful rivals.

As I say, I originally saw the problem theorized in Charles Williams acute and deeply informed critique of negative theology.

But your last paragraph may indicate you haven't 'got' what I am saying - since it does not refute my main point. What would refute my main point is if the warmth with which Christians treat families was rooted in theology and doctrine - but there is an extreme mismatch between the positive ways in which (say) evangelicals behave wrt marriage and families; and the feebleness, incoherence and inadequacy of their Christian explanations or justifications for this exemplary behaviour.

The Continental Op said...

The church should give out cash bonuses for each baby that married members have.

Bruce Charlton said...

@COp - I think you forgot the ;=)

Gabe Ruth said...

Your critique is of marketing, which cannot be the root problem. And of course the root problem is with people, which explains why it goes way back. A Christian civilization can help, but people must choose the good, even the good of family (which our ancestors would likely find surprising).

Maybe you don't get what Anscombe was saying. If you are in such a state that you can decide as a civilization that no or few children is the way to go, and a large family is at best an inconvenience and possibly a crime, your problems go well beyond theology and have become biological. If you are so demented that you reject physical reality, organized religion cannot argue you back to sanity.

Christianity recognizes the goodness of marriage and family, and integrates them into man's search for union with God. Which is what one would expect is the proper use of God's gifts to His creatures.

Is that the problem? Do you think we're using marriage and family instead of appreciating them for what they are and glorifying them as they deserve?

And what church denies the permanent significance of marriage and family? I will admit that the church could be more explicit in affirming that a holy marriage brings one closer to God, but anyone paying attention knows this, and what good would that do to one with a worldly focus?

Bruce Charlton said...

@GK _ It's beyond me how you can suppose I'm talking about marketing! I agree that the civilization is psychotic, and in that sense beyond reach - but individuals can be reached and are reached.

But, let's be constructive. What are the better arguments - I just mean a few simple sentences (or a link to such)?

Anti-Democracy Activist said...

If you aren't familiar with Dr. Helen Smith's tome "Men on Strike", you should read it. It explains a lot on this subject:

Essentially, men aren't marrying or having children - nor fulfilling many of the other expected roles of adult males of sixty years ago - as a completely rational reaction to an ambient culture that has disincentivized such behaviors. Not just provided alternatives to them, mind you, but taken active steps to make them exceptionally unattractive and utterly thankless options.

You can't stop people from engaging in perfectly reasonable reactions to the set of incentives and disincentives that exist around them.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ADA - Yes but all that is from a secular perspective.

And it is the women that matter, not the men. If women want to marry young and have families, then it will happen - enough men will go along with it.

Among the evangelicals I know, this happens.

Nate said...

As a practicing, believing Mormon, I can testify that the belief that our marriage is eternal makes a huge difference. In my life, it has helped to bind us together in the hard times, and made the good times that much sweeter.

Also, I married a beautiful, highly intelligent woman-she graduated with honors from a top university. Over the years we have had 10 children together-really good kids.

While our family life isn't perfect, it is very good. I don't see how anyone can do it without religion.

Belief makes a huge difference.

Anti-Democracy Activist said...


An old Cherokee proverb: "A Nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Then it is done, no matter how brave its warriors nor how strong its weapons."

The hearts of the west's women are on the ground - or more accurately, in the gutter. And we are done.

Agellius said...

"But more fundamentally, many traditional Christians believe that sex is sin, and the ideal is not to have sex."

Who, specifically, believes that "sex is sin", other than perhaps Gnostics and Manichees? Do you have a source?

Titus Didius Tacitus said...

Marriage isn't all that meaningful for deracinated individuals facing collective oblivion. It's meaningful as your ticket into the collective future and the social life of a real people - in Judeo-Christian terms, God's people: Israel. Get that racial / ethnic / religious collective working, and marriage will come alive. Refuse to, and it won't.

Arakawa said...

"And it is the women that matter, not the men. If women want to marry young and have families, then it will happen - enough men will go along with it."

Ah, the portion of the equation that I have least control over... this is, dare I say, the romance of depending on someone else to make the right decision?

Well, as a man, I can at least set the expectations for where and how a relationship can go, by dictating the parameters of that decision.

The most difficult temptation for a woman to overcome seems to be the 'boyfriend/girlfriend' serial monogamy protocol, which offers the illusion or status of monogamy, without any of the actual commitment (hence resulting in sterility). This is the thing that women apparently 'want' -- and thus what men settle for, I guess?

Men in practice seem to either want copious sex with a variety of women, without any strings attached (as a purely physiological source of pleasure/comfort/relief), or actual marriage with being the head of a family, having a comforting companion for life/eternity/whatever.... Serial monogamy satisfies neither of these groups of men, but each is trying to push the situation in a different direction. (Thus the groups will vehemently agree that there is something wrong with the current situation, and vehemently disagree whenever it comes down to the details of how to actually react to it.)

This means there is both the trope of the woman pressuring her 'boyfriend' (who is, by inclination, a cad, but without the 'alpha' charisma to dictate the terms of the relationship) into committing, and the reverse trope of the woman holding out on commitment.

At the moment, the protocol in my head to deal with this societal situation, seems to be that the interaction should be understood as a series of stages that lead up to marriage. The final stage is obviously irreversible, and the earlier stages cannot be reversed without any consequence to the friendship that exists thus far, and they have a (formal or informal) time limit. Thus each step is a progressively increasing level of commitment, yet there is enough opportunity to observe for warning signs/incompatibilities.

Something like, on a very rough level:

(a) Ordinary friendship.

(b) Friendship with signals of romantic interest.

(c) Explicit discussion of what it would take to build a life together. This is the trickiest stage of the ladder probably, since it's certainly unromantic to talk about marriage without doing it, but it's hopeless to try to marry without being extremely sure that both spouses explicitly understand certain basic moral principles... and that said principles are explicitly against modern social and sexual norms. (As someone from a non-Anglophone culture, and from a family that does understand marriage, I can in all honesty frame the expectations & promises I'm communicating as foreign norms, rather than anti-modern ones.)

(part 1/2)

Arakawa said...

(part 2/2)

And next are the steps I haven't yet reached, so I won't try to explain them:

(d) An actual resolution to marry, taken privately??

(e) Some kind of formal engagement (before the community) with an explicit time limit??

(f) Actual marriage.

I'm outlining the ladder on a logical level in terms of commitments being communicated; there's an entire parallel ladder on an emotional level which it would be skeezy and voyeuristic to explain in any detail....

But that's just my provisional map to deal with largely-unknown territory. I realized I needed a map of my own, no matter how bad, when I observed that (a) men who go into romantic situations without a map generally end up as a 'boyfriend' (something that had no appeal to me even before I cared about God); (b) 'game' manuals are oriented almost exclusively towards short-term fornication (the moral aspects of sex I was indifferent to at one point, but I couldn't find advice to fornicate that didn't suggest what I considered to be cold-hearted dishonesty as the means to that end -- and that observation was indeed a telling argument for the Christian version of sexual morality!); and (c) maps written by Christians are either pessimistic to an almost sinful degree, or presume on a denomination with strong-enough upbringing in certain moral principles -- something that's not really available to me.

There's sort of an arms race among the bloggers on this topic where they pronounce ever greater amounts of doom and gloom, and even increasingly cautious levels of optimism get tarred as Polyannaish.

I'm inclined to respect the anecdotes of people here who mentioned meeting their spouse and knowing two weeks later that they should get married... though that's not something I've ever experienced. This is partly a matter between God and the individual, influenced by personal virtue; partly a matter of character, where even if I met someone like that tomorrow, my intellectual approach to things would still cause me to drag her through the above stages just to be certain....

Bruce Charlton said...

@ADA - That is social statistics - there are exceptions - there could be many more.

@Agellius. Come come!


General not: How many churches actually help - openly, explicitly, as a major priority - their younger members to get married by providing a wholesome environment for meeting, guidance of courtship etc?


@TDT - That is secular and begs the question I am asking. What requires emphasis is not nation and biology, but spirituality.

@Arakawa - It all sounds terribly prosaic, doesn't it?

I all calling for Christians to discover in Christianity a Christian basis for culturally depicting the highest reality of marriage - depicting something that is really there, not exaggerated, nor made up, but experienced.

Titus Didius Tacitus said...

That is not secular, and I specifically said it wasn't. ("Get that racial / ethnic / religious collective working...")

Genesis 26:4-5: "I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands, and all the nations on earth shall gain blessings for themselves through your offspring, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes and my laws."

There are plenty of other quotes to go with that, and fertility is a miracle, literally.

In this context, collectively, the laws regarding marriage and fertility are as meaningful as possible, and the benefits are sure, not merely probable.

If you throw away all that, then yes you get a situation where marriage and fertility lose their point.

BC: "What requires emphasis is not nation and biology, but spirituality."

Apparently the God of the Old Testament, that you assert is Jesus, disagrees about as strongly as possible.

Bruce Charlton said...

TDT - "the God of the Old Testament, that you assert is Jesus"

I think I made crystal celar that this is NOT something I assert, but something I very recently discovered is a kind of quiet consensus among many/ most theologians. I accept this, but I don't assert it.

"racial / ethnic / religious collective working"

You certainly seem to be making racial/ ethnic the priority and using religion (not Christianity?) as a means to that end - and at the very least you are putting religon and r/e on the same explanatory level - which they are not. But perhaps I have misread this.

One point you need to consider is that there were very successful example of Christian-collectivity which were significantly multi-ethnic/ multi-racial - for example the Eastern Roman Empire and recently to the Mormon theocracy in Utah was multi-ethnic. A strong Christianity can bring considerably diverse people together - so Christianity must be recognized as primary, and e/r factors subordinated to it.

The Christian world view is linear and comes to an end - and I accept the arguments that we are in the end times.

And in the end times the situation is radically different than it was in the beginning in several respects; including the fate of the nation of Israel (which I interpret as God's 'chosen people', essentially Christians - probably plus faithful/ Orthodox Jews).

At the end of the end times, the mystical church will be overwhelmed by the enemy and down to some small number - clearly the era of Abrahamic expansion will by then have ended.

Titus Didius Tacitus said...

Why get married, why have children? The reason must be very strong (as well as believed)

Genesis 26:4-5: "I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands, and all the nations on earth shall gain blessings for themselves through your offspring, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes and my laws."

Besides being divine commandments, "get married and have children" is in observable and real-world terms the path of life as opposed to the path of death.

That is, it is for the subject of the god's concern: his chosen race. That is the divine perspective.

Now, what if you reject that perspective, and insist on taking an individual perspective?

At Pesach, what does the wicked child say? He asks, "what does this all mean to you?" If he was a good child, he would only think "we" and "us". Mental separation is wickedness.

Wickedness leads to the path of death.

Goodness leads to taking the path of life, as God commands.

I don't believe your request for a strong, credible reason, concisely expressed, can be answered any better. The Bible already provides the best answer from the best authority.

Bruce Charlton said...

@TDT - That is well expressed.

I think it misses out a lot - such as the promise of prosperity, triumph over enemies etc - which were possibly a stronger psychological motivation.

I have been taught, also, that this blood dispensation was superseded by the Christian adoptive family - bound by faith not blood. It worked that way for many hundreds of years.

But your point is annihilation of the individual will in obedience to the needs of the groups in obedience to the covenant.

It is not that this is wrong, but that this is a very weak positive motivation - and it was indeed backed up with an array of negative sanctions against disobedience - then comes the problem of why a society should be motivated to set up such a system in the first place, which takes us back to religion.

The West lacks individual motivation, and its lack of societal motivation is something like this lack, cubed.

IF our society was motivated to do this and that, no doubt it could be imposed on individuals, but it isn't so it won't.

Positive change has to start with individuals, small groups, families and the like.

HofJude said...

Bruce, you and your friends say that the positive reasons in favor of marrying have lost their force, or been eroded by modernity by accident or intent. But you say nothing about the punitive reasons to marry - which were God-created and much more dramatic in their impact upon the choices of individual men and women and the fate to which they were subjected than anything CS Lewis could conjure. The positive reasons have lost their force, but the punitive reasons have disappeared entirely. And for the individuals involved, the change has been almost all to the good. For all of human history, the fate of a non-virgin woman and that of her children was unspeakable misery, slavery, death. But with the end of the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate sex (leaving out sin as a late but admirable Christian embroidery) departs 9 out of 10 reasons for marriage. You are dealing with the remaining one. Even if you perfect it, how can it compensate for the absence of shame, fear, and obligation that has driven us into one another's arms (with such pleasant results) for a couple of hundred thousand years?

Bruce Charlton said...

@HoJ - I agree with your point that punitive reasons were very important and have all-but gone, and indeed reversed in many situations; and I have sort-of written about it on this blog, but indirectly and in relation to the importance of high childhood mortality rates throughout human history.

HofJude said...

Bruce -permit me as a Jew to say this to you. In view of the variable nature of childhood mortality rates, Jesus made a terrible and perhaps irremediable mistake when he modified Jewish marriage so radically in Mark 10, did he not?