Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

John Piper’s questions to ask before you get married

Here is a link to famous theologian John Piper’s list of questions to discuss before a couple gets married.

Here’s the section on theology:

  • What do you believe about…everything?
  • Perhaps read through the Desiring God Affirmation of Faith to see where each other is on various biblical doctrines.
  • Discover how you form your views. What is the reasoning-believing process? How do you handle the Bible?

The last line there is important because I think that if I got married, I would have to have some way to win my wife over to my point of view on areas where she did not agree with me. I think that there is only one way to do that, and that’s by trying to convince her to study the issue and to see if her views change in my direction as a result of studying. So during the courtship, I would want to try to change her mind by having her study things with me.

I don’t believe that people can change their minds by an act of will. The only way to change a person’s mind is to give them space to consider arguments and evidence on both sides of a question. At least, that’s how I come to my beliefs about things. Anyway, I think that this question “how do you form your views?” is very important because it the person forms their views by studying, then I will have a way to move forward when we disagree about things.

Here are some other questions that would be fun to discuss:

  • What is the meaning of headship and submission in the Bible and in our marriage?
  • How do you understand who and how often sex is initiated?
  • What about school? Home school? Christian school? Public school?
  • Should we have a television? Where? What is fitting to watch? How much?
  • What makes you angry?
  • How do you handle your frustration or anger?
  • Who is the main breadwinner?
  • Should the wife work outside the home? Before kids? With kids at home? After kids?
  • What are your views of daycare for children?
  • What determines where you will locate? Job? Whose job? Church? Family?
  • Is it good to do things with friends but without spouse?
  • What will you do if one of you really likes to hang out with so and so and the other doesn’t?
  • How do you think about exercise and healthy eating?

I think that it would be so much fun to talk about things like this in a relationship where both people were trying to see how and whether a marriage would work. It seems to me that these are the kinds of topics people should talk about when courting, and they should definitely not be focused so much on having fun. I tend to talk more about apologetics stuff with women, because I want to assess whether they can protect the children’s worldviews.

One thing that has always driven me crazy is when people say that they are looking for a spouse with whom they have many things in common. I disagree with this approach! Marriage is like a job, and you need particular skills to do it. Two narcissists may have narcissism in common, but that doesn’t qualify them to be happily married. A much better approach is to take a list of questions like Piper’s list and talk through them over a period of time.

You know what’s fun? A man and a woman talking seriously about how to get married and raise children. I’m a software engineer, and I love to design software. Thinking about how to marry and have children is fun for me, because it’s like software design. Identifying the challenges and solving all the problems that might come up is really interesting.

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5 Responses

  1. Drew says:

    First you say that you must have some way to win her over whenever she disagrees with you, and then you talk about how much it irks you when people focus on commonalities!

    • I wasn’t clear. I mean I don’t insist on having likes and dislikes in common, but I do want to have ideas in common. And it’s better for me if we initially disagree on ideas because then I can read her side of it and she can read my side of it and I can see how she disagrees and changes her mind, and she can see how I can my mind. It’s more important to work through these issues, because people often put up an agreeable front in these relationships in order to just be liked. It’s more useful to go past conclusions and ask people how they formed those views in the first place.

      When I say that I don’t like things in common, I mean preferences, not claims to knowledge. I once had a friend who tested me by asking me what my favorite foods were. We had everything in common except Pepsi/Coke. We both liked shrimps and lime popsicles. I just thought this whole exercise was pointless. We need to be talking about day care and schooling, not what foods we like in common. It’s silly to talk about it since there isn’t any objective right and wrong to things like food preferences. It’s easy for me to just buy Pepsi AND Coke so we can both be happy. But you can’t send the kids to day care and have them homeschooled.

    • Drew says:

      I think any type of commonalities are useful — the more important the commonalities the better — although your idea about inviting disagreement is to analyze character is interesting.

      • Oh, please, please try it! There is nothing more fun than being able to say what you really think with someone then having them not get angry. You get a real feeling of bonding with the person that I find very addictive because this person starts to stand out from everyone else so that you find talking to other women a big waste of time since they won’t let you be you.

        I talk to a lot of desperate husbands in in the office and they are not able to make any statements of disagreement with their wives at all! They can’t disagree about anything. I am not asking that women agree with me, I am asking them to understand that I may have different beliefs and goals, and that I am not an extension of their goals and beliefs.

  2. matthew says:

    Two things:
    1. Does she agree with you or do you both agree on the truth? Is she coming over to your side of the issue or are you both moving towards the same goal of ultimate truth?

    2. Having a wife that agrees with me isn’t the best thing, necessarily. Having a wife whose different opinions I can live with is.

    We should agree on the basic doctrines of Christianity. And I am blessed that my wife and I agree on most non-essential philosophies in our Christian walk as well.

    Where we differ, the tension is a strength because it isn’t tension over an essential doctrine. If anything, having differing opinions gives us a broader view of the world as we experience the same world through two slightly different viewpoints.

    Ruth Bell Graham said she was happy she and Billy argued and had differences of opinion. It proved there were two people in the relationship. If they’d always agreed perfectly they wouldn’t need each other.

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