The Zone of Vulnerability

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Dear Dawson,

The next thing I would like to cover with you has to do with the broader issue of authority, hierarchy and submission, and how these Christian concepts are in a death match with every form of egalitarianism.

There are two things we have to understand about how authority works in all of this. The first is that in order to be healthy, a relationship between a man and woman has to be under authority, and that authority must originate outside the world. Another way of saying this is that in a godly marriage, there are three parties involved, not two. There is the man, obviously, and there is the woman, equally obviously, but underneath, over, and surrounding them on all sides, is the authority of the living God.

The living God is in the picture, and He is in the picture, of necessity, authoritatively. There is a genuine three-way relationship, but that relationship involves the Creator, and two creatures. The Creator created the man and his wife, male and female He created them, in the image of God He created them (Gen. 1:27). The authority that exists within the marriage, that of the husband, does not arise from him. Rather it is delegated to him by the Creator of marriage, and God has given him very explicit instructions on how that authority must be used, and how it must not be abused.

This means that a marriage, a relationship between a man and a woman, along with the authority and submission involved, is an artifact. It is designed. It is intended to function in a certain way. It is not supposed to be conducted in ways that cause it to function poorly, and it is not supposed to be conducted in ways that keep it from functioning at all.

A Phillip’s head screwdriver is designed to do certain things, like screw in Phillip’s head screws. It is not designed for certain things which it might still be able to do, like stir the sugar into your coffee, or using two of them in lieu of chopsticks. Still less is it designed to serve as a soup spoon. It is not made for that.

When we look at certain modern forms of egalitarian approaches to marriage, we should just shake our heads and say, “Male and female were not made for that.” A woman can be the breadwinner for the home, and he can be a stay-at-home-dad, for example, and you can certainly prove to me that it can be done. And I will respond by stirring the sugar into my coffee with a screwdriver. It can be done.

If we try to play the relativist, wondering aloud how it might be possible to figure out what this design for marriage might be, I have good news for everyone. The Creator, the one who did all this for us, wrote a book. The artifact comes with a manual. There are training videos that accompany the software. He tells us what to do. This is the authority over marriage that comes from outside the world.

So when God tells us what to do, He does so from a position of authority. The manufacturer is telling you how to treat the equipment that you got from him. He is the authority. But we live in a fallen world, and there is a wide range of aptitude among men and among women. This range of aptitude—resulting from natural gifts, upbringing, education, personal obedience, and so on—means that some men are going to have an easier time of it, and some women are going to have an easier time of it.

Some men will struggle being masculine. It is a bigger challenge for them than it is for others. Some women will struggle being feminine. It is a bigger challenge for them. Because we live in an egalitarian age, these unfortunate people are told to camp out right where they are, and to feel aggrieved when they can’t attract a man or a woman from that default position. Instead of picking up the genuine challenge of pursuing biblical masculinity or biblical femininity, they decide instead to complain about society’s “stereotypes.”

You are fortunate in that you have certain secondary external things working for you—you are tall, have a deep voice, a good baseball arm, and a nice beard. You look like a guy. But because you have been taught and trained by egalitarians, you no doubt flinched when you read that. So let me address that flinch first. The world of egalitarianism wants to flatten everything, and wants to do so at the expense of that which is higher. Egalitarianism is just a fancy word for envy. They don’t want to make things less disparate by lifting up the less fortunate, but rather by taking down the more fortunate.

You are blessed with these sorts of visible things, and the envious want to shout them down or take them away. You are told that you should not care about such things at all, and a young woman who is considering you should absolutely not care. In this strange new world, you are allowed to be attracted to someone, but under no circumstances should you ever say why. If you say why, then someone will get angry with you. “So you’re saying that you wouldn’t ask a girl out if she had brown hair?” You have no doubt seen this response pressed to ludicrous extremes when trannies complain, feeling seriously aggrieved, that guys won’t ask them out.

Every form of egalitarianism wants to be catered to. They want to promise everyone a living wage, affordable housing, guaranteed minimum income, free chocolate milk, and the sex partner of their choice. But of course, if everyone has the right to demand such things, then somebody else has the obligation to supply such things.

So instead of women working to become the kind of women that genuinely masculine men would be attracted to, they rather believe the duplicitous lie that they should “want a man who loves me the way I am.” There is a truth in the middle of that lie, incidentally, which is what makes it so hazardous.

But we also have to take all this and factor in time, and stages of a relationship.

This is what I mean. In a courtship relationship between a Christian man and a Christian woman, you do not yet have that assigned part that Scripture assigns to the husband. She does not yet have the part that Scripture assigns to the wife. This is because you are not yet husband and wife.

When you are unmarried and you are pursuing a girl, you are trying out for a part. You do not have the part, and should not act like you have the part. You are trying out for the part. It is a rehearsal, a play acting. In the scenario of the restaurant choice I mentioned in my last letter, you were playing with counters, and not with real money. What both of you are learning is whether or not you know how to play the game, but you shouldn’t ever be playing for real money unless there is a covenant in place. There shouldn’t be real money involved until there is a ring on her finger.

In this, you know the role you are supposed to play, were you to marry. She knows the role she is supposed to play, were you to marry. But you are not married. You have no right to act as though you have that role already, and no right to expect her to act like the wife already. This is one of many reasons why you must act like a Christian gentleman throughout, particularly when it comes to sexual behavior.

If you get the role, then you will be the head. If you get the role, then you will be the final earthly authority in the home. But before you get that role, she is the authority. You already told me that her dad is out of the picture, so who makes the decision? Well, she does. You are trying out for the role of the lead, and she is trying out for the role of the female leader. But she is also the director, running the audition.

Let’s say that there were ten guys pursuing her. They would all be trying out for the part, and the part would be that of becoming her authoritative head. But who makes the authoritative decision that selects one of the ten? She does. She is running the audition.
“The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39).
Notice that key phrase—to whom she wills. She makes the decision, and then she submits to the one that she decided on. She places the crown on his head, and then honors him as the one who wears the crown.

The reason I used the phrase “trying out for the part” is that it is perilously easy for a man and woman to settle into a kind of semi-permanent relationship. They are going steady, or they are boyfriend/girlfriend, or something comparable, and this nondescript thing can go on for months or years.

When this happens, it will either get sexual or it won’t. If it gets sexual, then they are guilty of fornication, and this means that if they break up, what they have is all the emotional damage of a divorce, but without the attorney’s fees. If it doesn’t get sexual, then this introduces additional funkiness into their relationship. A man and a woman together in a relationship are supposed to be sexual, and if over an extended period of time they are not, then they are learning some very bad habits, and are very likely frustrating one another.

A dating relationship is fun, and therefore it is easy to settle down in it. But settling down in it is dangerous, really dangerous. Having a girl on your arm Saturday night is fun, but that doesn’t mean you should do it. Hanging out at a restaurant with her is fun, but that doesn’t mean you should do it. Kissing her is fun, but that doesn’t mean you should do it.

Suppose we were to draw two parallel lines, up and down, and we put all the guys on the far left side of one of the lines, and we put all the girls on the far right of other line. With me?

Between the two lines is what I call the zone of vulnerability. That is the zone that you can’t get out of without getting hurt or damaged in some way. If she is in the zone and you break up, she gets hurt. If you are, then you do. Frequently it is a tangled mess where both do.

Now it is not a bad thing to live there—God intends for us to live there. But He wants us to live there in some secured fashion, tied off with a covenant. That is what marriage is. Without a covenantal commitment, you don’t have any business wandering into the zone, and you certainly don’t have any business luring her into the zone. If you make that mistake, then there you are in a long term relationship, surrounded with unspoken commitments, with nobody quite sure of where everything stands. That’s the way it was with you and your ex, right? You thought you were in one place, and she thought you were in another.

Enough for now.

Your uncle,