Furthermore, several years ago, W. Bradford Wilcox, relying on research conducted by Robert Wuthnow, argued that the delay of marriage is a primary driver of secularization. This goes hand in hand with the fact that the extension of adolescence comes with vast and often unnoticed effects. Adulthood is meant for adult responsibilities, and for the vast majority of young people, that will mean marriage and parenthood. The extension of adolescence into the twenties (and even the thirties) is highly correlated with the rise of secularism and with lower rates of church attendance.
Christians understand that we were created as male and female to demonstrate the glory of God, and that we were given the gift of marriage as the singular context for which God designed the sexual gift and granted us the privilege and command of having and raising children. For all these reasons and more, Christians must understand that, unless given the calling of celibacy, Christians should honor marriage and seek to marry and to move into parenting and the full responsibilities of adulthood earlier rather than later in life.
Delaying adulthood is not consistent with a biblical vision of life, and for most young Christians, marriage should be a central part of planning for young adulthood and faithfulness to Christ. As husband and wife achieving adulthood together, young Christians serve as a witness of God’s plan and God’s gift before a confused world.
Christians understand that sex before and outside of marriage is simply not an option. Cohabiting is inconsistent with obedience to Christ. Children are God’s gifts to be received and welcomed within the marriage covenant.
Tellingly, secular authorities in the culture are now expressing worry about the delay of marriage among young Americans. When Time magazine is concerned about young Americans not getting married, Christians must be doubly concerned.
Young Americans, and that includes young Christians, face some very real challenges in moving toward full adulthood, and there is no question that economic factors play a part. But even secular observers understand that a shift in marriage points to an underlying shift in morality. The blunt fact is that previous generations of young adults, facing even greater economic challenges, still found their way to adulthood and marriage.
The Christian church must encourage young Christians toward the goal of marriage and must be clear about the necessity of holiness and obedience to Christ at every stage and in every season of life. When the world around us is scratching its head, asking what has happened to marriage, Christians must display the glory of God in marriage and all that God gives to us in the marital covenant.
And we must encourage young Christians not to delay marriage, nor to marry in haste, but to make marriage a priority in the critical years of young adulthood. In that cause, we have no time to wait.