When should a couple marry? Southern Baptists say marrying young is preferable

(Photo: Andrey Utzu)

There is no specific age that Christians should marry at but walking down the aisle at a younger age would be better than waiting, argue Southern Baptists.

And young Christians should be proactively making themselves "marry-able" and mature enough for matrimony, rather than giving in to the cultural norm to remain an adolescent "for an indefinite period of time". 

These are the views of Jon Akin, senior pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, Tennessee, and Andrew Walker, of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, writing in the BPNews.

Their column is a follow-on to an interview they did with The Tennessean which they felt confusingly gave the impression that encouraging marriage at a young age was Convention policy.

In an effort to clarify their position, there is no Convention policy on when Christians should marry, but the two men feel there certainly is a biblical case for tying the knot sooner rather than later.

While they agree with the common assertion that singleness is a gift God gives to some people, they contend that a person only has the gift of singleness "if they can live a celibate life with self-control". 

There is also a pragmatism to their position, as they write that in light of the sinfulness of pre-marital sex, it is "impractical and unhelpful to advise and encourage young men and women who reach sexual maturity at the age of 12 or 13 to wait 15 years before marriage and still remain pure".  

They are also quite critical of parents who advise their children to wait for marriage in order to pursue educational attainment instead.

"Frankly, it is indeed our personal opinion that marrying earlier staves off the hormonal rush that comes with sexual temptation," they write.

"Marriage is an institution that is divinely shaped to serve the needs of men and women; it isn't a capstone to an already-built career. Sadly, we've known Southern Baptist parents who have counseled their children to delay marriage while turning a blind eye to their fornication in order to not jeopardise Suzy and Johnny's education.

"We do not advocate a specific age; rather, we believe that young people should make themselves 'marry-able' younger. They need to push against the cultural norm that extends adolescence for an indefinite period of time and reach maturity more quickly so they can be ready for marriage sooner than the national average." 

They conclude by advising anyone considering marriage to seek the wisdom of their local church.  But they also end with a word of advice to churches to shape and influence potential spouses "in a way that prioritises and mirrors the Gospel in convenantal fidelity".