1 Woman Christian Men Should Not Marry (and 9 other biblically-unsound examples)

If you've seen the "10 Women Christian Men Should Not Marry" post floating around on social media, consider this a companion read--one that systematically examines the ideologies and hermeneutics that contribute to what the list purports to be definitive and universal for true believers (note: the article was originally published by Dr. Stephen Kim on 12/29/2014; however, it is no longer available on nycpastor.com).

First, let's start with ideologies. This author is clearly a complementarian. This means that while he affirms the equality of men and women, he believes that God gave each of them different roles and the role of the man is leader. I may not personally subscribe to this belief, but he's certainly entitled to it along with the many others who would agree with him.

What I have a problem with is his implication that people who take the Bible seriously will arrive at his conclusions. We all do this from time to time, but good scholars and theologians are careful to deliver their biases up front and give credence to alternate ways of thinking. For example, egalitarians will examine the same passages and determine that the "roles" complementarians see are not intended to be prescriptive. We don't take the Bible any less seriously than he does yet we arrive at different conclusions.

Second, this author is a Southern Baptist which means his hermeneutic is going to be extra literal. A literal hermeneutic isn't a bad thing because there are some who use allegory to avoid difficult passages.

But on the other end of the spectrum are those who take every passage as universally applicable for today. This not only ignores authorial intent, it makes context (both immediate and historical) irrelevant. And it ends up seeing the Bible as a collection of truth bombs and theological discussion as a competition for who can lob the most. As best we can, we should avoid seeing Scripture as our arsenal and the search for truth as a game of who gets the last word.

So with my biases hopefully made clear, here's my take on the 10 women:

1. The Unbeliever

This is the only biblically-sound example. The passage he quotes is clear and pertinent, and his understanding of Old Testament marriage laws is accurate. My only criticism would be that he should have included the graciousness of 1 Corinthians 7:12-16. It may not be completely relevant to a post on who not to marry, but it would have been to the readers of 2 Corinthians 6:14 since it preceded it. Otherwise, it leaves those already on the wrong side of the ledger confused and ambivalent.

2. The Divorcee

This one is partly sound. The quotes he has from Jesus are not out of context and are, in fact, corroborated by 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. Yet he also rightly mentions the condition of infidelity which works against his thesis as does the condition of death (1 Corinthians 7:39). So, yes, Christians should avoid marrying divorced folks--but there are exceptions. And for those that do, there's also this thing called forgiveness.

3. The Older Woman

This one is not only unsound, it's nowhere on the map. The Bible never gives age restrictions on marriage (in fact, most biblical marriages have significantly larger age gaps than those today). And the argument from primogeniture is pure complementarian conjecture. Even if you accept the argument that man being created first indicates leadership, it does not logically follow that age is a necessary factor. It's also noteworthy that the only time he quotes "secular" research is when he can't find a verse that says what he wants it to say.

4. The Feminist

This one, again, is just more complementarian evangelism. If that's your position, have that as your conviction before God, not men. Just recognize that not all us will arrive at the same position because some of us can't see Ephesians 5:22 out of context with 5:21. Also, try not to misrepresent Christian feminism like this author. It's not trying to usurp men or dishonor God; it's trying to promote equality and raise awareness to the patriarchal context of the Bible (a context God wouldn't have necessarily overturned if he did, indeed, disapprove of it).

5. The Sexy-Dresser

This one doesn't even make sense because I think it's pretty safe to assume that most men looking for a wife don't go looking on street corners late at night. In fact, neither was the man being described in the proverb the author quoted--it's talking about a one-night-stand, not a wedding night. Immodesty in the Bible is never divorced from action, meaning that immodest attire is always associated with seductive behavior. There is no biblical category of "sexy dressing" that incites men to lust (Jesus addresses that as the man's problem, not the woman's). There is only the woman who dresses and acts immodestly. Also, the modesty in 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Peter 3 is talking about pride and reputation, not sex.

6. The Loud-Mouth

This one is replete with sexist assumptions and false dichotomies. First of all, not all women love to talk (I'm married to one). Also, some men love to talk (like me). And there is absolutely no ontological correlation between loquacious women and the Ephesian women of 1 Timothy 5. Paul is addressing young widows who have grown restless with their circumstances and have inappropriately involved themselves in the affairs of others. That's why he counsels them to seek what they miss so much: marriage and family. He's not saying that chatty women will make poor wives. Also, it should be noted that Paul is aware that men can be gossips and slanderers too (2 Timothy 3).

7. The Child-Hater

This one hides its sexism behind fallacious divine mandates. It's bad enough that some folks think the dictum to Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:28) automatically applies to us today, but this author doesn't appear to have read his prooftexts all the way through. Malachi 2:15 is talking about Israelite men divorcing their wives to marry idolatrous women. That's why the verse adds an important qualifier: "What does the one God seek? Godly offspring." It's talking about creating a home devoted to God, not others gods. Likewise, 1 Timothy 2:15 is problematic because it appears to directly contradict Ephesians 2:8-9 in saying that women are saved by having kids, not by grace through faith. Since this can't be true, the context must provide another explanation (remember this is a personal letter to a friend addressing issues that would certainly been previously discussed and already understood). And this is found in chapter 5 where Paul counseled those young widows--not all women--to have families.

8. The Wander-Luster

This one you could call a repeat offender. The author uses previously quoted verses and extrapolates arbitrary applications from them a second time. First, we return to the woman of Proverbs 7 and find the phrase "her feet do not stay at home" in verse 11. But this is not talking about your everyday housewife. This passage is describing a prostitute or at the very least, a seductress. So the phrase is not an injunction for women to keep to the kitchen as it is a description of a woman given to sleeping in a different bed each night. Similarly, the young widows from 1 Timothy 5 return again, and this time they're, "going about from house to house." How this translates to limiting family vacations, I'll never know, but I do know that Paul didn't care about that. He was more concerned that these young ladies were spreading their discontent and, as some have conjectured, divisive doctrines. Nowhere does the Bible mandate that a woman's place is in the home, nor does it discourage women from trying new things. For further reflection, please read Ruth and Esther.

9. The Career Woman

This one is so redundant it's painful. For the last time, those poor young widows have nothing to do with whether women ought to stay home or not. And any other biblical examples need to be seen through the lens of an ancient agricultural society sustained by the physically dominant of the two sexes resulting in patriarchy. Always be aware that much of what is written in the Bible is not endorsed by the Bible unless otherwise indicated. Furthermore, the temptation to place career ahead of family is not exclusive to women and should be applied to men as well because raising children is not a single-parent job.

10. The Devotion-less Woman

This one just goes through the religious motions of devotions = relationship with Jesus. It's not that his intent is bad and pursuing a woman who has a deep relationship with Jesus isn't a good thing. But it's also not a bad thing to marry someone who doesn't because God never set the bar on how spiritually mature you have to be to get married. In fact, Paul recommended that young people who couldn't keep their pants on just go ahead and get married (1 Corinthians 7:8-9)... the spiritual discipline and devotion to Jesus' commands is truly inspiring, isn't it? I'm not saying that you should treat your relationship with Jesus like a gym membership, but if you're saving yourself for marriage until you're "spiritually mature enough," you're never going to get married.

In conclusion, this list would have better served its audience had it been titled "10 Non-complementarian Women that Complementarian Men Should Not Marry."

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