The Briefing 08-05-14

The Briefing 08-05-14

The Briefing


August 5, 2014

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


It’s Tuesday, August 5, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Cohabitation has become replacement for marriage in a massive moral shift

Cohabitation is become the norm among American young people. This is become increasingly the case, and as recently as three years ago became very clear that the first co-residential arrangement for most American young adults comes in the form of cohabitation with marriage nonexistent, and perhaps even not on the horizon. Back during the 1990s when rates of cohabitation began to rise remarkably, it was noted that cohabitation generally lead to marriage. In a vast majority of cohabiting relationships the cohabiting phase actually preceded the advance to marriage, but now as research is coming out and becoming more and more clear, cohabitation is become the replacement for marriage rather than a precursor to marriage. The most recent evidence for this development comes in a major study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family. It was released just this month and research undertaken by professor Karen Benjamin Guzzo of Bowling Green State University. Her research reveals a wealth of information that should be of interest to Christians interested in the future of American young people, and of course the future of marriage. Professor Guzzo points to two contrasting trends, the first is this: it remains true that for most marriage now undertaken by young adults, that marriage is preceded by a period of non-marital cohabitation. In other words these are young people who live together for some time before they are married – now the majority of young people who marry were living together before they got married. But the second data point, the second trend which she points is this: increasingly cohabitation is not leading to marriage at all. Indeed, in a majority of cases it turns out the cohabitation is the relationship itself – it never actually moves forward to marriage.


The eclipse of marriage as the central institution of human society has to be of grave concern to any American concern for the future of our society. But it must be a special concern for Christians who understand that the institution of marriage is not merely a sociological arrangement, it is indeed one of the greatest gifts that God has given to His human creatures, a gift that points both to His glory and to the path of maximum human flourishing. It is bad news for us all when we consider the fact that a majority of American young adults are now cohabiting rather than getting married. It was of great moral concern that cohabitation was preceding marriage and when this became the norm. But now the norm is that the marriage actually never happens. There are a couple of other data points that are of grave concern in this research undertaken and published just this month. The reality is that young adults, as she says, are actually forming what she calls “co-residential couplings” as early as they did before.


This is a very interesting point because we been noting for recent decades the fact that the age of marriage has been increasing. The average age of what is called “first marriage” for white young people in America, is now at about age 27 for young men (approaching 30 in some studies) and about the same now for American young women. Both are now edging towards 30 in terms of the age of first marriage. But the reality is that for an enormous number and percentage of American young people, marriage simply isn’t on the horizon. But as her research indicates, that doesn’t mean that the romantic couplings are waiting as marriage is waiting. No, indeed, they are forming those cohabiting arrangements as early as previous generations formed marital unions. Another indication of cohabitation is replacing marriage.


Furthermore, she makes very clear that the vast increase in children born to unmarried mothers is taking place in the context of cohabitation. What we now know, and the study now verifies, is that this mass surge in the number of children born outside wedlock is due to this pattern of cohabitation. Most of the women to whom these babies are born, were involved in some kind of cohabiting relationship when the baby was both conceived and born. But the research also points to another very significant downside, even sociologically speaking, of cohabitation as a replacement for marriage. She points to additional trends that are very clear in the research. One is this; young people are not only cohabiting at greater rates, their cohabiting at a greater rate of cohabiting units. In other words, they are forming unions over and over again. And we also know that cohabitation, as she makes very clear, is not only not leading the marriage, it is also leading to a situation that can be affirmed only as the tenuous of all romantic relationships. They’re being involved in romantic, what she calls, co-residential and sexual relationships, with no responsibility of marriage, with marriage not even on the horizon. They are making and breaking these unions at an unprecedented rate. Cohabitation is, in one sense, replacing dating. As professor Guzzo makes clear, dating and courtship have basically been replaced in the lives of American young people by co-residential, that is cohabiting relationships. The falloff in marriage after cohabitation is documented in her research, she writes:


Fewer cohabitations are transitioning to marriage, a pattern that implies a delinking of marriage and cohabitation. In 1995, 58% of first cohabitation had transitioned to marriage within three years. That rate fell to 51% in 2002 and to 40% in 2006 to 2010.


She implies in her research that the rate is falling even further in terms of the period between 2010 and 2013-14. In her concluding section, professor Guzzo writes,
Cohabitation is become quite common in the United States in recent decades. Given that most people will cohabit outside of marriage is some point in their lives. The majority of today’s marriages are preceded by cohabitation even as fewer cohabitations are transitioning to marriage and marriage rates are declining.

To her credit professor Guzzo deals with the question of causation, she asked why it is that these trends have now taken place and are so clearly documented in American lives. She raises the issue of economics, asking whether the economic recession and the high unemployment rates among young adults are causing this problem, are causing the increasing rates of cohabitation and the decline of marriage as an institution. She raises the issue and says that undoubtedly there are economic factors that are at stake, but she points to the attitudinal, cultural and moral issues as well. As she makes clear in her conclusion, the attitude of young adults, and indeed of most Americans, towards marriage and cohabitation reflects a vast and massive moral shift. Most Americans, she indicates, and certainly most American young people, by the way they are cohabiting, reflect the fact that they do not see this as a significant moral issue. The morality of marriage, a moral wisdom, that has been accepted and embraced by virtually every society in history humanity, has now been replaced, at least in the lives of many American young people indeed most American young people, by a mere morality of consent. And as professor Guzzo makes very clear, it is evident that consent isn’t enough to hold these cohabiting relationships together. And this explains the rapid dissolution and multiple character of so many these cohabiting relationships among American young people, with cohabitation effectively replacing dating and courtship, as well as marriage.


This kind of research is important for the Christian understanding of our contemporary moment and of the challenge of our contemporary culture. We look at this and recognize of the replacement, indeed the displacement, of marriage in our society will have evitable consequences, devastating consequences, in the lives, not only the society at large but of the individuals, who are a part of this pattern. Furthermore, we also recognize the biblical wisdom of the fact the God has given us the gift of marriage for His glory and for human flourishing. Thus we recognize that all the pathologies documented in this research point to the fact that the displacement of marriage comes with severe consequences for all involved, and for the society at large. Furthermore, when we look at this we recognize that that morality of consent that replaces the morality of marriage, is actually pointing to the fact that God’s institution and gift of marriage that involves a covenant, that takes the shape of a covenantal pledge, is something that is far more stable, far more enduring, by its very character than the kind of relationship that is established only on the temporal, and very evanescence, reality of consent.

2) British government-funded sperm bank reflects shifting understanding of nature of family

Along similar lines, another form of moral alarm arrives in the form an article that appeared in Sunday’s edition of The Times, London’s most esteemed newspaper. As The Times reports, Britain is now announcing it will have its first  NHS, that is National Health Service funded sperm bank and it’s going to take place largely because of a shortage of donor sperm, donor sperm that is demanded by mostly single, that is to say unmarried women, and increasingly unmarried women in relationships with other women. As Elizabeth Beynon of The Times reports, couples with fertility problems, lesbian couples, and single women trying to start a family will be among those who may benefit from the national sperm bank, which is to be based in Birmingham, England’s Women’s Hospital.


For about £300, half the cost at a private clinic, users will be able to search an online database and find an anonymous donor on the basis of ethnicity, height, profession and hobbies. Figures [she says] from the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority show that during 2011 [the last year for which there are complete results] a total of 4,101 cycles of donor insemination were carried out in Britain. Out of that figure, a total of 1,271 — more than a quarter of all recipients — were for women registered with a female partner.


So the documentation here is that as recently as 2011, at least a quarter, indeed she says more than a quarter, of all of those who went through the so-called cycles of artificial insemination were lesbian couples. The article cites Laura Witgens, who is the executive director and chief executive of what is known as the National Gamete Donation Trust, she said,


The [demand from] same-sex couples and single women has grown exponentially. It’s become socially acceptable to say: I haven’t found a guy yet, don’t want to wait for him, still want a child. [she concludes] The aim is we will have enough surplus sperm . . . to set up a service for people [such as] single women and same-sex couples.


When you’re looking for documentation of this vast moral revolution we are experiencing in terms of marriage, morality, sex, same-sex relationships, and family, it’s hard to come up with anything more startling than this. The nation of Great Britain, through its official National Health Service, is now setting up the sperm bank because of what is described here as the exponential rise in the demand for donor insemination from single women and from lesbian couples – it says same-sex couples at one point in the article but the body of the article makes very clear the vast majority of these same-sex couples are same-sex couples made up of women. And if you’re looking at this kind of documentation you recognize that this story, which included just a few paragraphs in Sunday’s edition of The Times, is actually a massive piece of information. It reflects a seismic moral change, not only in the way Great Britain handles issues of artificial insemination, but the way human beings are relating to one another – the very conception of family. The statement that is quoted here from Laura Witgens, again the chief executive of the National Gamete Donation Trust, is that it is now in Great Britain, and by extension we know in the United States as well, socially acceptable to say:


I haven’t found a guy yet, don’t want to wait for him, still want a child.


Indeed, in Great Britain as the demand reflected in this article is making very clear, there is this vast change in what is so-called “socially acceptable” that’s the language of this kind of moral shift. That is the language that is expressed in purely secular terms, but we get the point. We get the point emphatically, we get the point clearly. The vast change in the definition of family is so clear, it’s so evident in this article that in the actual body of the article it says that this exponential demand for artificial insemination by single women and same-sex couples is in order that they may, to use the words in the article quote, “try to start a family.” So without any further editorial need, without any further explanation, without any recognition of the moral seismic shift that is reflected here, the family simply redefined in terms of whatever anyone, at any point may want it to be and thus the natural human language, used by human beings throughout millennia, a language that is made sense in every previous generation, language referring to such words as “having children,” that language is now completely transformed, such that “having children” can involve artificial insemination, any number of advanced reproductive technologies, and any number of individuals who can simply demand, either as individuals or as partners, access to artificial insemination.


This one of those articles that appears in a newspaper and is likely largely overlooked and, on the most part, quickly forgotten. But it should not be forgotten among Christians, who should look at an article like this from the lens of the Christian worldview and understand that nothing less than a vast moral earthquake is reflected here in just a space of a few paragraphs.

3) Opposition to truth of biblical stories actually opposition to notion of divine revelation

While we’re speaking of research and what it reveals, there has been a great deal cultural conversation in recent days over two articles that appeared in a journal known as Cognitive Science. As Mark Joseph Stern at reports, these two studies presume to tell us that children were raised in Christian homes, defined here is religious homes but all of them are Christian’s of one denomination or another, that children raised in Christian homes at very young ages have more difficulty than children raised in secular homes in understanding the difference between fact and fiction – especially when it comes to characters and marriages. The studies presumed to tell us that when children are raised in Christian homes they have an increasing difficulty understanding which stories are factual, which stories are fictional, which are indeed fantastical. The studies included this statement,


Religious teaching, especially exposure to miracle stories, leads children to a more generic receptivity toward the impossible – that is a more wide-ranging acceptance that the impossible can happen in defiance of ordinary causal relations.


Well if you’re shocked, it’s simply because here you have a secular set of researchers indicating that they’re absolutely shocked, not only shocked but appalled that children raised in Christian homes believe that something other than the naturalistic worldview may be at work. Their open, not only, to the knowledge it comes to us empirically in terms of what we learn from nature and the world around us, but there also open to reality and true knowledge that can come to us by divine Revelation. They understand that stories found in the Scripture are to be undertaken as true, ought to be taken as telling us the truth. These include stories about biblical characters and miracles; characters such as Jonah and Joseph and Noah and miracles such as those that are revealed in the four Gospels of the New Testament. Responding to the studies Stern writes;


If you’re surprised by these findings, you probably haven’t attended a church service lately. Religions tend to be founded on miracle stories—exactly the thing religious kids had trouble distinguishing from reality. When you’ve been told that a woman was created from a man’s rib, or that a man reawakened three days postmortem little worse for wear, your grasp on reality is bound to take a hit. Religious children are told these stories from an early age, often as though they are unquestionably true.


Now as you hear that statement, keep in mind that several of the leading so-called new atheists, indeed some were not even characterize with that label, are charging that raising children in the Christian worldview and on the basis of Christian truth is a form of child abuse. These kinds of reports are no doubt going to give fodder to the fire of those who say that Christian parents raising their children on the basis of the Scripture and Christian truth, are doing their children a disservice, perhaps even abusing them, by raising them in something other than the purely naturalistic and materialistic worldview that is the sum and substance of modern secularism.


Oddly enough a similar kind of warning comes to us in the form of an editorial that appeared in August 1 edition of the Courier-Journal, the newspaper Louisville, Kentucky. The editorial board is downright outraged that Kentucky tourism authorities have granted preliminary approval for tax abatements for a new tourist attraction to be built in Kentucky – a full-size replica of Noah’s Ark. This is to be a major tourist attraction the Commonwealth and it comes by the group Answers in Genesis that is already built one of the state’s leading tourist attractions, The Creation Museum, located near Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. But what I want to draw our attention to are the two closing paragraphs in the editorial that appeared in newspapers, the editors write


The story of Noah is terrifying. If you believe it as told in the Bible, none of us would have been on the boat. We would have been off the boat. As it was written (New International Version), “Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth.” [the editors then write] Are they going to show that, too? Hard to see how that might attract out-of-state guests and have a positive impact on the state budget.


In other words, for the editors of the Courier-Journal, it is simply beyond imagination that any kind of person would want to buy a ticket to see a replica of Noah’s Ark because the stories simply so unbelievable, that no intelligent person could accept it is true, much less buy a ticket in order to see a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark. Well it turns out the Noah has his enemies. Not only in the pages of the Journal known as Cognitive Science but also on the editorial page of the Louisville Courier-Journal. But of course it’s not really Noah that here faces his enemies, it is the very notion of divine Revelation and that indeed tells us a great deal about the secular worldview that is simply taken for normal in much of America.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

Podcast Transcript

1) Cohabitation has become replacement for marriage in a massive moral shift

Moving In and Moving On, Family Studies (Scott Stanley)

Trends in Cohabitation Outcomes: Compositional Changes and Engagement Among Never-Married Young Adults, Journal of Marriage and Family (Karen Benjamin Guzzo)

2) British government-funded sperm bank reflects shifting understanding of nature of family

New NHS sperm bank to help single women, The Sunday Times (Elizabeth Beynon)

3) Opposition to truth of biblical stories actually opposition to notion of divine revelation

Is Religion Good for Children?, Slate (Mark Joseph Stern)

Children Exposed To Religion Have Difficulty Distinguishing Fact From Fiction, Study Finds, Huffington Post (Shadee Ashtari)

State helps ark park defy science, Louisville Courier-Journal (Editorial Board)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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