Eureka! I’ve found both of them — first, the chat from December 22, 2007, with Lacy, then my girlfriend and courtship/dating partner, now my wife; and second, a new link for the How to Do Courtship Exactly Right-style article that kept us awake and laughing past 2:30 a.m.1
Myself: Well, according to the directions ter foller, what are we doing “wrong”? [… Lacy is bringing it into view on the webcam] Whoa! Is that legal-size paper?!
Lacy: (No… just looks that way ) Well, let’s see… Well, for one thing, we’ve got the order all messed up
Myself: What’s the real Order, then?
Lacy: Apparently it’s Friendship (for preparation), Courtship (for investigation), and something they term as Betrothal (not sure what that’s about, except that the guy makes out a BIG check to the Dad or somesuch nonesense) [...] We’ve mixed up the first two dreadfully. And there’s not supposed to be any sort of “emotional” attachment until Betrothal
Myself: “BIG check”?! Egads!
Lacy: Yeah, like ten percent of your life savings… and they’d better be good
Myself: Stoics … Christoplatonists2 … Gnostics … sissies!!!
Lacy: Told you it cracked us up! [...] http://www.preterism-eschatology.com/Rediscovering%20the%20Timeless%20Truths.htm. Read it and weep
[... Later, I’m reading.]
Myself: “Faith, not feelings”?!!
Lacy: None. ever. They’re bad
Myself: Christoplatonist bilgewater!
Lacy: No kidding!
Myself: Seriously, though, Lacy … now I’m feeling sooo guilty now. These dratted feelings. They just keep preventing me from thinking about things from a faith perspective. It’s either/or, you know.
Lacy: Check out “Victory Over the Dating Spirit”… just the title cracks me up
Myself: See, of course you know this, but … they define “dating” as that whole hook-up-and-break-up thing, and never as a subset of the direction-driven Adventure mindset …
Myself: I have been so wrong about this. Wrong, wrong, WRONG! Apparently … emotional and other attractions are not supposed to be discerned before commitment! OH — MY — GOODNESS GRACIOUS LAND SAKES ALIVE. Now I’ve had it.
Lacy: See? We’ve blown the whole thing
Myself: Danggit. Well, it’s been nice knowing you. ‘S been fun.
False ‘dating’ dichotomies
Patriarchalists may honestly hope to do everything right regarding male/female relationships. But in their haste, many go far beyond rightful reminders about the important roles of family, friends and leaders to provide counsel about building a relationship with someone special.
However, not even Josh Harris wants to be the “love doctor” anymore. I don’t want this either.
So let’s assume here that courtship is a good word, and we already know dating without being marriage-minded is absurd, and too many Christians need to pay attention to the Bible on this.
But patriarchalists take “courtship” into extra-Biblical and even un-Biblical extremes of man-supervised marriage, literally man-supervised, based on their fathers-and-daughters beliefs. Again, they do not view these as optional for Christians who want to follow God’s will. Unless your human authority gives explicitly un-Biblical counsel, you must follow his lead in courtship.
And a daughter’s potential marriage, of course, can only occur with a father’s (or authority’s) direct oversight. Any kind of one-on-one “dating” is seen automatically as worldly rebellion against Godly standards, focusing only on infatuation, self-gratification and lack of commitment.
Thus patriarchalist teachers give little room for anything other than this false dichotomy: either you support our kind of systematized courtship, or you’ve bought into immoral, feelings-driven man-centered dating.
So what if you’re a Christian girl whose father does not care to supervise your courtship? Or a single older woman whose father has long since died and who doesn’t have church support? Or a young woman attending college across the country (most patriarchalists wouldn’t support that anyway) who can’t submit to her father in all ways? Patriarchalists might not state overtly that your situation simply won’t do, but at best, they simply won’t know what to do with you!
Perhaps worse, patriarchalists bypass or reject the truth that God can make know His will and His grace even if you become involved with someone and marriage does not work out.
Instead, “arranged-marriage-esque” courtship proponents claim or at least strongly hint at this: if you have strong feelings for someone you don’t eventually marry, especially before you’ve already committed to marry him/her, the consequences are bad. At best, you’ve given away part of yourself and shown inappropriate emotions. At worst, you’re outside of God’s will.
Such beliefs not only minimize Christians’ freedom in Christ and His grace, but His sovereignty to keep us naturally wanting to glorify Him, and our trust in His ability to preserve us that way.
Does this mean anything else goes?
The last time I discussed this topic, some people assumed that if I didn’t like patriarchalist arranged-marriage-esque courtship, then I must also be saying something like “lighten up, who really cares about Godly standards, have fun dating, or worse, we don’t want to be legalists.”
Unfortunately this is one of the strategies some patriarchy preachers use against their critics. Maybe it’s not that they are intentionally setting up a false dichotomy; maybe they sincerely have this if/then mindset, supported by selective anecdotes that only one kind of courtship is spiritually superior. Either way I would plead, in Christ, to read (really read) this explanation:
If your kind of Courtship is defined as:
- direction-focused, Christ-centered, Grace-minded interaction,
- when you are mature enough to provide for a husband or wife, spiritually, emotionally, and financially,
- with help from spiritually minded friends and family,
- with someone of the opposite sex to whom you’re attracted and can see yourself marrying sometime relatively soon …
… Then absolutely we favor that!
Nobody here is suggesting someone should be free to date/court with no parental input, no counsel from family members and friends (especially trusted church friends), no physical-affection boundaries, and not trust in God to bring you the best. So please, let’s not fall for the logical fallacy of false dichotomies.
With courtship “versus” dating, obedience to parents “versus” not agreeing with them, physical expression “versus” don’t-touch-ever, there is middle ground.
Many discerning Christians believe in marriage-minded Courtship! But they may also rightly believe in Dating as a subset of Courtship. Going out to dinner or a movie, or just walking, or just spending time together, is a great way to build a God-honoring friendship and a romance that just may last a lifetime.3
(Tomorrow: further reading from those who know about beliefs in not-so-Biblical “patriarchy.”)