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The following article is part of Christianity Today's cover package on "The Case for Early Marriage."

The Wheaton College newspaper recently published an article detailing frustrations that married students experience on campus because of their choice to marry young. The article surprised me. From my perspective, Wheaton College, along with much of evangelical culture, seems obsessed with marriage. The number of students desperate for a "ring by spring" and the many marriage seminars at local congregations suggest that marriage remains a high priority.

Despite my different perspective, I feel for these married students. Certainly in our society, where strong marriages are so difficult to maintain, the Christian community should rally around these couples. And as I read through Regnerus's argument, I found myself agreeing with several of his points. Yes, abstinence rhetoric is problematic, and many singles have difficulty maintaining their purity. And yes, characterizing marriage almost entirely by romance and great sex is dangerous.

But is encouraging early marriage the answer? As Regnerus admits, early marriage is a risky proposition. While some young Christians might be ready, I worry that emphasizing early marriage will hasten the marriages of many who should wait.

I also worry that this solution addresses only one aspect of the problem. What about those who will not marry early—or at all? Many Christian women in particular must face this reality. What do you do if you are the one in three who doesn't find a spiritually mature man to marry? God can perform miracles, but despite the assurances of many Christian dating books, he doesn't necessarily provide everyone with a spouse.

What we need, then, is to change not simply ...

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August 2009

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