Like a Postprandial Sloth

I have to say that I didn’t expect that reaction. Courtship is a hotter/bigger topic these days than I realized.

What I would like to do is throw together a series of brief responses to some of the issues raised in the comments. The results may or may not come together as a coherent post. One can only hope.

What effect does a conversation with a father have on the daughter? There is no one answer — people are different, and every situation is different. If she has been desperately in love with the suitor from afar, the response is joy. If he would be perfect for her, but she is skittish, the reaction is different. In such cases, the parents can help her walk through the skittishness — they see that she likes the suitor fine, but that she is nervous about the whole idea. In other cases, the suitor may have been her Platonic idea of a bore, and so a negative reply comes back to him rather quickly.

At what point should a young man make himself vulnerable by going to the father? He should do so when his interest is becoming obvious to others, and three people on three different occasions have asked him if he has talked to her dad. In other words, he should make himself vulnerable when his public demeanor toward her is making her vulnerable. If he knows his interest, but is not flirting his head off, then he can wait as long as is prudent — till he finishes his junior year, or till he notices other guys noticing and doesn’t want to be left standing at the gate. But if his public behavior toward her is above reproach, he goes to the father when he is ready to see something happen.

One commenter said courtship was akin to Communism: “it only works on paper.” I think it would be better to compare it to wealth acquisition within a free economic system; some people do better than others. Freedom means freedom to fail. There are risks involved, and I am not tagging the young men as the automatic reason for the failures. Sometimes they are, sometimes the father is, sometimes the young woman is. But other times, when everyone involved is walking in wisdom, the thing runs like a Singer sewing machine. This goes back to my earlier point about the tendency to assign a false cause.

A young man gets fired from his job stocking shelves at Safeway, largely for moving like a postprandial sloth in the sunshine, and the conclusion he wants to draw is that “capitalism has failed me.” Well, it might not be the system that needs to get its butt in gear.

That said, the anecdotes of courtship weirdness being described are not instances that make me want to say “impossible!” I know that this kind of thing happens, and I know that in some places it can happen a lot. But people behave foolishly in every system — so what system anticipates that, and accounts for it beforehand? If I could paraphrase Winston here, courtship is the worst system imaginable, except for all the others.

The kindhearted souls at CREC Memes continue to filter their weak tea of understanding through strainers made out of wet doggy blanket, and continue to be mystified at why it tastes the way it does. That’s why they are always making those faces.

Courtship doesn’t create additional expectations, but it does move them around. Whose expectations? We should not act as though abandoning courtship is going to make the conflict of expectations go away. I do grant that fathers sometimes have unreasonable expectations. But I also grant that horny teenaged boys have them as well. Without societal and familial pressures (which immature men chafe under), the pressures will come from another quarter. Without pressure on the men, the pressures will come from the men. So maybe the father will drag the courtship out too long. But have more fathers done that than young men have wanted to accelerate it? Have fathers wanted young men to not touch more than the men have wanted to touch? Come on. It is not whether there will be pressure, but rather which pressure there will be.

Courtship is not engagement, and shouldn’t be treated as engagement. The man need not be ready to propose in order to court a girl, and a girl certainly need not be ready to accept such a proposal if offered. Courtship is a time for making decisions, not a time in which a settled decision is made public. Courtship is commitment to a process. Engagement is commitment to a person. Marriage is a commitment to a person.

That said, because the man is the initiator, he should have a much better sense of his own mind than the young lady needs to have. He should not be like a dog chasing a fire truck — not knowing what to do when he catches one. She may be courted without ever having thought about him “that way” before the process started. But before he talks to her father, he better have some sense of what he is doing. And he can usually have a good sense of whether she is the kind of woman he would be seriously interested in marrying if he is living in a healthy community together with her. If such a community is not available, as is frequently the case, I grant the need to improvise.

I do think Moscow is such a (generally) healthy community, and I wanted to contrast that with the picture that Umstattd drew of the whole courtship endeavor. But his picture was accurate in some quadrants, and I have seen the kind of thing he wrote about. Not only that, I have seen far worse than what he talks about.
Now when I say that I have seen that kind of thing, it should be obvious that I have usually seen it here, where I live. Despite the teaching, despite the warnings, despite everything we might want to be able to do about it, courtship fiascoes happen. Add to that the instances where shrewder and wiser pastoral care could have headed some disaster off, and you do have some tragedies. But we are in the business of fighting tragedies, not trying to find a Thomas Kinkade painting to live in where such tragedies cannot happen.

So when a man is interested in a woman who has an unreasonable father, he might as well kill the dragon first. If he is the kind of man who cannot handle an unreasonable father, what would happen to him if he married his girl via traditional dating, and then discovered, at the first family Thanksgiving, that he is the kind of man who curls up in a fetal position in the presence of unreasonable fathers? That would not be a good deal either.

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Jeers1215
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Jeers1215

The defining features of a market are A) free-exchange of information and B) competition, which cannot be, where there is courtship interventionism to stifle the healthy information-gathering processes that accompany the initial development of every other human relationship. So there is nothing to inform choice. Outside of finely-tuned contexts, courtship has destroyed an essential component to the Western paradigm. But you are still saying ‘no’ to starting casual?

Blake Law
Guest

Just curious about a hypothetical. Sometimes the “unreasonable father” is actually nothing more than the puppet of the unreasonable, domineering mother. Would a suitor be completely out of line to ask a father to reconsider a refusal, to check his motives, and make sure he is the one leading the family? Shouldn’t men be able to talk about such things as men?

Also, I like the line “Courtship is commitment to a process. Engagement is commitment to a person. Marriage is a commitment to a person,” but might I suggest that, “Marriage is a commitment to a Person.”

S
Guest
S

I am curious as to how you would recommend a suitor deal with an unreasonable father. Some years distant, I had a run-in with a father who was two-faced in his dealings with me and spread numerous vicious lies about me (without being willing to listen to the truth from other men who knew me and him). I ended up walking away, not seeing any way to deal with him in a respectful or appropriate manner. I get that a man ought to be able to stand up to an unreasonable father, but how can he do this when the… Read more »

Jane
Member

“where there is courtship interventionism to stifle the healthy information-gathering processes that accompany the initial development of every other human relationship. ” This assumes that the nature of courtship stifles, rather than facilitates, information-gathering. The examples of courtship I’ve been witness to from a middle distance actually involve an increase of the information a starry eyed young man or woman would probably have gathered, developed, and assessed on their own, with the help of parents who knew a bit more about the right questions to ask, when to ask them, and what the range of acceptable answers might be, than… Read more »

Barnabas
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Barnabas

There may be many advantages to having in-laws who have thought and acted in such a deliberate manner regarding the future marriage of daughters. For instance, my daughter has been taught from earliest childhood that family is more important than education or career, that being a wife and mother is more fulfilling than being a wage slave, and that divorce is not an option. I also fully intend that my daughter will not carry a burden of financial debt into her marriage, student loan or otherwise.

Peter Jones
Guest

Blake, if you see a husband dominated by his wife, I would avoid that family. And no, a man dominated by his wife will not be able to talk about such things. S, I am not sure what Pastor Wilson would say, but I think his point was that it is better to find about about the unreasonable father before getting married than after. The low level of interaction with the father in many dating situations makes this hard to determine. It is difficult to handle an unreasonable father-in-law without either capitulation or conflict. I would not generally recommend marrying… Read more »

Jane
Member

I think a lot of the head-butting going on here stems from the fact that some of us think of courtship as an idea about how people finding/choosing marriage partners should be seen as a family matter, not just a matter of the thoughts of two isolated individuals, and others think of it it as some system that might have some variants, but is still primarily a system. I think when Doug Wilson talks about it, he’s talking about the idea about how it should be a family matter, not so much about how this person or that person’s set… Read more »

Ken Miller
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Ken Miller

Good post, Doug. Thank you.

Ryan
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Ryan

For those who criticize Wilson for encouraging you to buy his book, keep in mind that Umstattd encouraged his readers to tweet his blog post 8 times. He kindly provided links to make it more convenient, just like Wilson did. He also told his readers to share his post on facebook. Does that mean Umstattd is arrogant? Of course not, he just wants the conversation to keep moving. I think Wilson should get the benefit of the doubt on this one. Many great Christian authors and bloggers do the same. As for the dating vs. courtship debate, I’m still not… Read more »

Benjamin Rogers
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Benjamin Rogers

Pastor Wilson, I love your church and I love your preaching. I have several of your books. I live in LA, I’m 27, and I’m single. I have a job, I’m a leader in our church, and quite frankly I’m tired of being single. I’m ready to be married, and have wanted it for the last 9 years. I am unfortunately, what you’ve called “a victim of hard providence.” I appreciate posts like these, because this is something that definitely needs to be talked about more, but really–when is anyone going to begin talking about those of us who are… Read more »

Katie
Guest
Katie

Benjamin Rogers, I would suggest that your implying a girl is “juvenile” for claiming she doesn’t have feelings for you might be a sign you’re not doing *everything* conceivably right.

Jeers1215
Guest
Jeers1215

Courtship is a system, as Pastor Wilson is describing it. Dating is the unstructured alternative. There is nothing preventing people from making wise choices once a dating relationship begins to progress. Counsel is good, and I wouldn’t contest that. Parents should absolutely be involved in a serious relationship, but that does not mean courtship. What Pastor Wilson seems to be saying is that every relationship ought to begin with a level of seriousness. He has not addressed the zero to sixty problem that affects everyone outside of delicately contrived ecosystems. No one is required to answer, but this is the… Read more »

RFB
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RFB

Jeers,

Whether Pastor Wilson “…seems to be saying is that every relationship ought to begin with a level of seriousness. ” would best be left to him to define.

Nonetheless, are you objecting to a principle that stipulates that “every relationship ought to begin with a level of seriousness.”?

If so, then what do you propose that a relationship begin with if not “a level of seriousness”?

Benjamin Rogers
Guest
Benjamin Rogers

Thanks Katie, let me rephrase. I was trying to say girls who reject on the basis they lack feelings for a guy is in fact a juvinille/immature reason. These girls tend to have read one too many romance novels and seen one too many Disney movies, and tend to believe if they don’t feel ‘fireworks’ or heightened emotions something must be wrong. Mars Hill’s Kathryn Harleman agrees with what I was trying to say, which is “fireworks should not inform your choice, they should follow it.” In other words, what many girls don’t get is that love is a choice–its… Read more »

RFB
Guest
RFB

Jeers,

I also question your statement of “Courtship is a system…Dating is the unstructured alternative.”

I think that a careful examination shows competing structures, not the presence or absence thereof.
Not if a system, but whose system. Courtship displays a “system” of hierarchical and cooperating levels of authority and submission. Dating trends more to a semi-autonomous “your not the boss of me” and “let’s take it for a test drive” car lot type of “system”.

Calling it unstructured does not make it so.

Katie
Guest
Katie

Benjamin, Yikes! Not at all what I meant. Those feelings can’t be “created,” but neither, in my opinion, are they irrelevant. It just seems insulting to a lady to say her lack of romantic attraction is immature. No one wants a Mr. Collins. Best wishes to you!

Jeers1215
Guest
Jeers1215

RFB,

The alternative to strangers getting serious would be strangers being casual. This is the essential information gathering process that courtship precludes.

You’re saying dating is a structure of attitudes, versus courtship as a structure of authority? I guess that’s fair. And I don’t object to the authority.

Authority seems much more formal than attitudes, so I am saying, formality stifles normal relationship development. Why do we suddenly ignore this when it comes to courtship?

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

Dear Pastor Wilson, Could you address Matthew 7:7-11 as it relates to relationships. Me, and several other friends, find ourselves asking, seeking, and knocking for a godly relationship. Another commenter, Benjamin Rogers, mentions asking for a relationship for 9 years. I’m on my second year of asking, and I cannot imagine waiting any longer (though I intend to if God calls me to). I want to believe in the power of prayer, but when another friend tells me how he prayed till he was 32 to get married, I really, really, really struggle with it. Many people try to spiritualize… Read more »

Katie
Guest
Katie

Apologies for possibly over-posting. To those who are waiting: the longing to know and be known by another person is often unbearably strong. Those of us who are married know that even marriage doesn’t satiate this. There is One who will fill up this yearning for good, one day. And while we wait, for Him and/or for a spouse, Paul’s words in II Corinthians 2 speak to me: “For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us… Read more »

DrewJ
Guest

Benjamin Rogers, there is at least some logic to your position. Obviously, it is the same logic embraced by societies who perform arranged marriages. But unless you plan on having an arranged marriage, then your theory needs to take a back seat to reality. The reality is that a woman isn’t going to marry you unless you can generate some fireworks. (And of course, in Doug Wilson’s “courtship” system, you must also generate fireworks for her father.) So yes, it is your responsibility to generate fireworks. I will grant that things would be better if modern women were so thoroughly… Read more »

J
Guest
J

I would second “S” question on what how to deal with unreasonable parents. Is there a time when you throw out the advice, admonition, and condemnation of parents, peers and pastors and do what you know is right (get married)? I know that it worked for me to do so, in spite of my ability to explain why I was doing what I was doing at the time (I wasn’t used to acting in faith at the time. Actually still working on that). My marriage has outlasted the parents marriage, the pastors pastoring, and the peers naysaying. And even other… Read more »

Luke
Guest
Luke

What has happen to the language of this conversation? The verb “court” means “to try to attain favor with or win the affections of” the verb “date” in it’s traditional usage in this context, would be “an individual, social engagement or occasion arranged beforehand with another person, often with romantic intentions.” So by the natural definitions of these words, a man who is “dating” a woman (i.e. taking her out on “dates”) is “courting” her (i.e. he is doing so to win her favor or affections). One might discuss if dating is an appropriate manor to court a woman, or… Read more »

Benjamin Rogers
Guest
Benjamin Rogers

@ Drew, you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve wished for an arranged marriage. It’s a common misconception that they’re unbearable. Actually, some statistics have shown that couples who do meet through arranged marriages are in the long run happier. The idea behind it is families used to really know one another, and your parents could pick a spouse out for you better than you can. Man I wish it were that easy today. Christian society puts such a huge burden on men to step up–and it’s totally true–they should be leading. But I’m at the point where every rejection… Read more »

timothy
Guest
timothy

I have not followed this thread except to note the number of comments (I have not read them).

The sheer number makes me happy.

God bless.

t

valerieab
Member

Benjamin — Have you tried online resources such as reformedsingles.com or sovereigngracesingles.com? I know several couples who met through such means. Just one possibility for expanding your horizons.

Benjamin Rogers
Guest
Benjamin Rogers

Thanks Valerie, I know you mean well by that. To be honest, no I haven’t. I personally don’t intend to either. I believe it takes a lot of pursuit out on the male side of things that guys should be stepping up and doing. And, that I plan on doing. As in, I think guys should take initiative and lead. I also don’t like the idea of being judged based on an online profile. I don’t have facebook either. Plus, in LA girls are super crazy–can’t imagine trying to find one online. My questions toward Pastor Wilson were more geared… Read more »

valerieab
Member

Why limit yourself to LA? Especially if you think the girls there are crazy? Don’t complain about the scarcity of options if you insist on maintaining the scarcity.

TLR
Guest
TLR

A question:

What are the Biblical justifications for courtship that would supercede Phil 4:6? If there are none, why do we need any other system? For a caution, I would call to mind Jer 10:21, 23. Let parents be very careful that they do not act on their own understanding (or the understanding of an author or pastor), but inquire faithfully of the Lord and follow His guidance. Counselors, even wise ones, should not replace prayers of faith; and try as we may, human fear cannot prevent God’s will.

RFB
Guest
RFB

Jeer, “The alternative to strangers getting serious would be strangers being casual.” I disagree with your definition. I understand the alternative to being serious as being “not serious”. Since you see the discussion pertaining to an “information gathering process”, what good reason would there be to treat that in a less than serious manner. The end or culmination of the process is to establish a lifelong, two-becoming-one entity, and producing Godly offspring. This entity is much more important than say, putting a man on the moon, or operating a nuclear reactor. It is the building block of humanity. If one… Read more »

Andrew Lohr
Member

Try hard to really remember that “courtship” and “dating” both include umpteen varieties, some of which overlap. Umstattd wrote (sometimes) as if “courtship” was just one thing, so his piece came across as attacking a straw man even if each thing he wrote was true somewhere. He also called one form of dating “Traditional Dating.” But the jump from “she’s somewhat attractive” to “Sir, may I court your daughter?” seems awfully large. Courtship rejects fornication (right?); God rejects fornication; common modern dating, including a lot by professed Christians, does not. God hates divorce; modern marriages suffer a high divorce rate;… Read more »

Blake Law
Guest

Benjamin Rogers, I feel for you man. You sound like a low “beta” or high “delta”. You speak of stepping up as a man and being a leader in your pursuit of a woman, but it’s clear you have completely wrapped yourself around this goal of finding a wife. Women sense this. I hope you refrain from letting women know how earnestly you have sought God’s face for a wife! Nothing smells more foul to women than desperation. You say you have lain all your emotional cards on the table with a woman you are interested in, effectively putting “the… Read more »

Blake Law
Guest

Whoops, left out a thought there. “Masculine leadership would be to” find out her level of interest in the relationship without revealing your own.

matilda
Guest
matilda

For the love of God, don’t start that Game nonsense in here. I was so glad that this discussion was devoid of that particular brand of poisonous thought. I recognize that those ideas are really tempting to a lot of Christians as they seek to become strong men in a world without examples, but Game is the wrong way of going about it. It’s unbiblical – there, I said it. It’s as bad as feminism. So DON’T look up Game, hypergamy, alpha/beta/gamma/upsilon whatever. You are much better off not trying to sort out the few grains of truth from all… Read more »

DrewJ
Guest

Andrew Lohr, your lumping together of dating with fornication is faulty. And your lumping together of dating with divorce is faulty. I’m not convinced that courtship marriages are so much more stable than average, but even assuming that they are, correlation does not equal causation.

Blake Law
Guest

Matilda, a handful of Christian “Game” bloggers are very up-front about the seedy underbelly of Game (pick-up artistry, outright misogyny) yet still comment on the principles that ring true with God’s teaching on male leadership, female patterns of sin, and a wife’s submission in the home. Some have gone so far as to say that recovering traditional, patriarchal marriage is central to preserving western civilization. Game is a tool in the toolbox.

What would your advice to Benjamin be?

Barnabas
Guest
Barnabas

Benjamin Rogers,
You could learn a lot from this blog post.
http://www.feminagirls.com/2014/08/19/courtship-tales/
The most applicable to your situation is that this nice Christian girl chose a nice Christian guy…who was tall, in great shape, former lacrosse player and Marine, and who rode a motorcycle.
The truth is that these a the things that women are attracted to, Christian or not. Not to necessarilly endorse “game” but what those guys would tell you is to BE THAT GUY to the extent that you are able.
Also, I agree with Blake Law that Christians (and particularly Mark Driscoll and Albert Mohler) should read Dalrock.

Katie
Guest
Katie

Barnabas, I would disagree. No one ought to be who he is not *for the sake of snagging a wife*. In the name of all the elves in Christendom, “women” aren’t all attracted to the same thing. That’s why, as individuals, they marry other individuals, widely different from one another. Serve God, and trust him.

Dougpete
Guest
Dougpete

Benjamin Rogers – I think you should consider broadening your horizons beyond LA by whatever means necessary. Where I live and most of the places I have visited lately are way overpopulated with young ladies who are ready for and desirous of marriage….with a lack of young men who are stepping up to the plate. I think part of the problem may be an idea that in order to be ready for marriage a man must have a house, big money in the bank, fancy car etc. Were someone to approach me, after covering the basics, (sexual purity, basic doctrinal… Read more »

Barnabas
Guest
Barnabas

If you want a job you don’t sit at home and pray an wait for the phone to ring. No one says, “don’t try to change yourself by going to college, just be yourself.” Don’t listen to what women say, watch what they do. From what you observed over the last 10 years who is right, me or Katie? Someone I read once said that there is a difference between being a “good man” and being “good at being a man.” You are going to have to cultivate confidence, strength, masculinity, and risk taking and I don’t mean that in… Read more »

prolixusk
Member

Dougpete,

That’s interesting to hear. So how would those of us who are ready to step up the plate actually go about meeting these women? Look at their lives. Are they using websites to meet men, is there some sort of community that allows casual contact outside of asking someone on a date, or would I have to join their church, work at the same company as them, or something else like that just to get to know them in the first place?

Benjamin Rogers
Guest
Benjamin Rogers

And now I’m reminded why I never post on forums. The internet is a harsh and strange place, filled with a lot of law and little grace.

Thank you Katie, for the one meaningful bit of advice that I got out of this entire thread, with the exception of the post that started it. “Serve God, and trust him.”

I will.

Signing off.

Katie
Guest
Katie

Benjamin, my earnest prayers are with you. God is good!

Blake Law
Guest

Benjamin, if you check back here, I hope you know that grace and law are not opposed to each other. My own and Barnabas’ counsel to you may be different than what you would have liked to hear, but I assure you it comes from real compassion and a desire to see you conduct yourself as a man who confronts folly with wisdom. If there could be any clearer indication of your need to listen to the counsel of some Game aware men than your textbook retreat and “white knight” response to Katie, I don’t know what it would be.… Read more »

Jeers1215
Guest
Jeers1215

RFB, Your definition is perfectly acceptable. It is not like putting a man on the moon, because we are talking about people and not mathematical calculations. If human relationships could be reduced to mathematical calculations, I would agree with you and the entire courtship enterprise wholeheartedly. The theory is magnificent! The information gathering process is not serious by definition, because you are seeking information for the purpose of making a choice about getting serious. Seriousness is an explicit choice to haul the authority structure out onto the front lawn. Before doing this, the one making the choice ought to have… Read more »

Jeers1215
Guest
Jeers1215

Andrew,

Christians that are committed to their faith ought to know well enough that fornication is wrong.

Pastor Wilson is prescribing a variety of courtship that begins with seriousness. This courtship is incomplete, because it removes the first step of any normal relationship and replaces it with nothing. It raises the marginal cost of participation unreasonably. Raising the stakes at the beginning only decreases participation among discerning people and exposes less discerning people to unreasonable risks.

Dougpete
Guest
Dougpete

Av – Yes, how to meet one another…frustration all around. Several of my daughter’s friends have gone the online route and it has worked out well. I am told online is a lot of work. Maybe someone will show up at our church. Maybe we will run into someone somewhere else. Not much of a system.

Need to pray more.

DrewJ
Guest

None of the comments was even remotely harsh to Benjamin Rogers. And none of them was particularly harsh to anyone else, either. His response to the comments was wholly irrational.

B Martin
Guest
B Martin

Benjamin Rogers, you seem like an honest and sincere guy. L.A. is an extremely hard place to minister and I admire you for being loyal to the area.

Jamie
Guest
Jamie

The courtship model is presbyterian in character, the dating model is independent baptist.

Christine
Guest
Christine

Dear Benjamin, I hope you come back to read this, even if you are done commenting. I think much of the advice you got here is ridiculous – especially anything related to “become the man women want.” Women absolutely do not want all the same things, and you should not change who you are. Unfortunately, it sounds like you are in an area where most women are like that with ridiculously high standards and long, picky lists of what they want. I met my husband at a large church in MN. We were both in a “young adults” group that… Read more »