Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Is cohabitation a better way to prepare for marriage than courting?

Matt from Well Spent Journey sent me this assessment of cohabitation from the liberal New York Times.

Excerpt:

AT 32, one of my clients (I’ll call her Jennifer) had a lavish wine-country wedding. By then, Jennifer and her boyfriend had lived together for more than four years. The event was attended by the couple’s friends, families and two dogs.

When Jennifer started therapy with me less than a year later, she was looking for a divorce lawyer. “I spent more time planning my wedding than I spent happily married,” she sobbed. Most disheartening to Jennifer was that she’d tried to do everything right. “My parents got married young so, of course, they got divorced. We lived together! How did this happen?”

Cohabitation in the United States has increased by more than 1,500 percent in the past half century. In 1960, about 450,000 unmarried couples lived together. Now the number is more than 7.5 million. The majority of young adults in their 20s will live with a romantic partner at least once, and more than half of all marriages will be preceded by cohabitation. This shift has been attributed to the sexual revolution and the availability of birth control, and in our current economy, sharing the bills makes cohabiting appealing. But when you talk to people in their 20s, you also hear about something else: cohabitation as prophylaxis.

In a nationwide survey conducted in 2001 by the National Marriage Project, then at Rutgers and now at the University of Virginia, nearly half of 20-somethings agreed with the statement, “You would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together with you first, so that you could find out whether you really get along.” About two-thirds said they believed that moving in together before marriage was a good way to avoid divorce.

That’s a nice idea – wanting protection against divorce. But I think these hopeful attitudes that young people have about cohabitation and the utility / harmlessness of premarital sex, is so much whistling past the graveyard. The fact is that cohabitation does not improve marital stability. Young people believe it because they want to believe it. Let’s look at the evidence to see why.

Cohabitation is a bad idea because what it says is that sex is not to be confined to marriage, but it is instead for recreational purposes outside of marriage. If men and women cannot demonstrate that they are capable of self-control prior to marrying by functioning in a relationship based on commitment and not based on pleasure, then they are not qualified for marriage. Cohabitation is associated with higher risks of divorce because it works to undermine the need for quality communication during courting and the need for commitment that is based on discipline, instead of pleasure.

Research has shown that pre-marital chastity produces more stable and higher quality marriages. And that’s because chastity helps people to focus on conversations and obligations instead of the recreational sex which clouds the judgment and glosses over the seriousness of marriage. Premarital sex rushes the relationship to the point where it is harder to break it off because of the sunk costs of sex and the pain of the break-up. Courtship is the time to discuss the things that break up marriages, like finances and division of labor. It is also the time to demonstrate self-control and fidelity.

More:

Couples who cohabit before marriage (and especially before an engagement or an otherwise clear commitment) tend to be less satisfied with their marriages — and more likely to divorce — than couples who do not. These negative outcomes are called the cohabitation effect.

Researchers originally attributed the cohabitation effect to selection, or the idea that cohabitors were less conventional about marriage and thus more open to divorce. As cohabitation has become a norm, however, studies have shown that the effect is not entirely explained by individual characteristics like religion, education or politics. Research suggests that at least some of the risks may lie in cohabitation itself.

As Jennifer and I worked to answer her question, “How did this happen?” we talked about how she and her boyfriend went from dating to cohabiting. Her response was consistent with studies reporting that most couples say it “just happened.”

“We were sleeping over at each other’s places all the time,” she said. “We liked to be together, so it was cheaper and more convenient. It was a quick decision but if it didn’t work out there was a quick exit.”

She was talking about what researchers call “sliding, not deciding.” Moving from dating to sleeping over to sleeping over a lot to cohabitation can be a gradual slope, one not marked by rings or ceremonies or sometimes even a conversation. Couples bypass talking about why they want to live together and what it will mean.

The problem with young people today is that they want marriage as “a blissful state where I will get whatever I want without having to do anything, and where I am free from the consequences of my own selfishness”.  They don’t want marriage as commitment, moral obligations, serving others and self-sacrifice. By avoiding conversations about who will do what, and what needs doing, they can fool themselves by thinking that happy sex and happy drinking and happy dancing will naturally turn into happy marriage. But marriage isn’t about feeling happy, it’s about being a sinful person who now has to learn to love another sinful person and has to train and lead selfish, rebellious children so they are able to serve God and others.

If you asked me, I would tell you that courting is protection against a bad marriage. And the aim of courting is to interview the other person so that you can see whether they understand the demands of the marriage and whether they can perform their duties to their spouse and children. In particular, men should investigate whether the woman has prepared (or is willing to prepare now) to perform her roles as wife and mother, and women should investigate whether the man has prepared to perform his roles as protector, provider and moral/spiritual leader (or is willing to prepare now). Courting is not designed to be fun, although it can be fun. It is not meant to make people feel happy, it is mean to prepare them for marriage. And this is because you cannot translate fun and happy into marriage, because marriage is about well-defined roles, self-sacrifice and commitment. Marriage is about following through for the other person, whether you get what you want or not.

And that’s why I encourage men to very gently and subtly guide the relationship in a way that will allow both the woman and himself to practice their expected marital duties, see how they feel about their duties and get better at being able to perform them.

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What are Christian men looking for in a woman?

Here’s a Bible verse that explains the number one thing that men are looking for from a potential wife.

Ephesians 5:21-33:

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

26 to make her holy,cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—

30 for we are members of his body.

31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

The Bible sometimes sets out rules and goals for expected behaviors, which become moral obligations for anyone for follows Christ. It is up to us to convince ourselves through study that the Bible has authority to speak to us. And it is also up to us to decide the most effective way to achieve the goals that the Bible sets out. This post proposes some tips for women who want to learn how to respect men, based on my experiences of what makes me feel respected as a man. I think this is beneficial for single women, as well, because it allows them to arouse the interest of a man by performing good actions.

Things that women can do to make men feel respected

Here are some things that signal “respect” to me.

1. Listen

The first thing that really works is listening. I really feel respected when a woman listens to me explain my thoughts and feelings. This is especially true when I am talking about my work and my work day. When it comes to my work, I feel respected when a woman listens to me explain what I am doing at work. The more she understands software engineering (what I do for money), the more supported I will feel. I like it when a woman is nearby when I am working, and asking about my progress. I know Dr. Craig also talks to his wife about his work as well. I feel a lot better making sacrifices (studying hard things, working weekends, volunteering at work) when those sacrifices are understood, encouraged and supported. That’s why I think that women need take care to have a broad understanding of the way the world works, and never drop out of quantitative subjects like math, science, engineering and technology. The more you know about what a man is talking about, the better. Knowing more about politics, economics, science, etc. is always a good thing for women. I think that women definitely need to work full time for at least a couple of years to develop a sympathetic understanding of what men do in an office in order to provide for a family.

2. Plan

Another area that is important to talk about is my plan. I like it when I can tell a woman the specific experiences that I had that cause me to have the plan that I have. For example, my struggles getting apologetics into the churches that I’ve attended have really soured me on church leaders. Another thing I like to talk about are the Christian scholars who are my role models, and how I try to emulate them, and I want my children to emulate them, too. One lady I was speaking to has been studying areas that I care about on her own through books, lectures and debates and then going out into the world and engaging with the people around her. Sometimes just a few people, and sometimes with large groups. Recently she told me that she would like to start a group in her church to study useful books with them. This made me feel very respected. My goals matter to her, and she is trying to help with them on her own initiative, and with her own strategies. Note that women who want to respect men may find that it is useful to learn certain skills in order to be more effective at helping men with their plans. For example, she might study science apologetics and then engage her co-workers and friends with scientific arguments for Christian theism. She should find out what areas matter to him with respect to serving God and then come alongside him and help him. I have a homeschooling mom friend who is busy doing a degree in nursing, which is a very useful skill set to have. Her children are able to see her struggling with hard subjects like chemistry, and that is good for them to see. It’s valuable to a man to have a wife who has practical skills and who can shepherd the children through school and into careers. This same lady is reading Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics, as well.

3. Roles

A final area that is important is my roles as a man. According to the Bible, men are supposed to be the main provider for their families. So, I made the decision early in my life to prefer work to academics – so I have actually been earning money since the time I was 12 years old. My grades were As (and some Bs), but I was always working part-time, and in the summers. The money I earned went straight into investments, so that I would be able to afford two degrees in computer science (BS and MS) and have a nest egg saved for marriage. I had $9,000 before undergraduate school and $16,000 after, with no debts and a current model year used car. I chose computer science over English literature, because I knew that computer science was a more reliable way to earn a living. Marriages run more smoothly when money isn’t a concern, so I did these things in order to make sure that the money to run the marriage would be there.

I think that women should prefer men who take the provider obligation seriously. I feel very respected when a woman takes the time to ask me about my education, research, work history, and investments. Our culture today doesn’t value men taking their provider roles seriously. Instead, many women prefer attractive, entertaining men over men who can provide. I see a lot of Christian women going after men who don’t have the ability to finance a marriage. That is disrespectful of the provider role, and I believe it stems from the desire to not acknowledge male leadership. I believe that some women (ones who struggle with trust issues) prefer men who don’t earn a lot of money, so that the man will not have the authority in the home that comes from the provider role. But when a woman chooses a man with an inadequate education and resume, it also makes it much harder for her to respect him, which is what a man needs a woman to do.

To respect a man acting as a provider also requires voting for policies that support a man’s ability to work (e.g. – less regulation on business, lower corporate taxes) to keep what he earns (lower income tax, lower inflation) and to spend it the way he sees fit (privatization of health care, education, etc.) – and these issues need to be studied, not checked off on a checklist as “we agree”. Studying economics and politics in depth, and being political active, are ways for women to respect men in their provider role by promoting policies that help him to perform that provider role. Women should not be supporting policies that promote the redistribution of wealth via taxes. Women should not vote to reward irresponsibility and dependence, either. It is disrespectful to the man’s provider role to vote for leftist fiscal policy. If you want big government, then you get men who can’t afford to marry. Women need to vote for laws and policies that create more of the hard-working, high-earning men they want to marry.

The provider role is not the only role a man plays, he also has to be experienced at leading others on moral and spiritual issues. In order to evaluate a man’s ability in these areas, women must study these exact same issues so that they are able to prefer evaluate a man’s ability in these areas. Christianity is not a checkbox. Bible reading and church attendance alone do not train a man to engage a secular culture on moral and spiritual issues. Bible reading and church attendance alone do not enable a man to intelligently apply the Bible to areas like economics and foreign policy, either. Yet economics and foreign policy issues do affect families (e.g. Obamacare or border security) , and that’s why men need to be tested to see if they know those things. Marriage requires certain behaviors from men, and those behaviors require knowledge and experience. It’s just like picking a man for a job in a workplace. In order to pick well, you need to know what the job is and what it requires.

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How do you get a Christian man to marry you?

Here’s a Bible verse that explains the number one thing that men are looking for from a potential wife.

Ephesians 5:21-33:

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

26 to make her holy,cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—

30 for we are members of his body.

31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

The Bible sometimes sets out rules and goals for expected behaviors, which become moral obligations for anyone for follows Christ. It is up to us to convince ourselves through study that the Bible has authority to speak to us. And it is also up to us to decide the most effective way to achieve the goals that the Bible sets out. This post proposes some tips for women who want to learn how to respect men, based on my experiences of what makes me feel respected as a man. I think this is beneficial for single women, as well, because it allows them to arouse the interest of a man by performing good actions.

Things that women can do to make men feel respected

Here are some things that signal “respect” to me.

1. Listen

The first thing that really works is listening. I really feel respected when a woman listens to me explain my thoughts and feelings. This is especially true when I am talking about my work and my work day. When it comes to my work, I feel respected when a woman listens to me explain what I am doing at work. The more she understands software engineering (what I do for money), the more supported I will feel. I like it when a woman is nearby when I am working, and asking about my progress. I know Dr. Craig also talks to his wife about his work as well. I feel a lot better making sacrifices (studying hard things, working weekends, volunteering at work) when those sacrifices are understood, encouraged and supported. That’s why I think that women need take care to have a broad understanding of the way the world works, and never drop out of quantitative subjects like math, science, engineering and technology. The more you know about what a man is talking about, the better. Knowing more about politics, economics, science, etc. is always a good thing for women. I think that women definitely need to work full time for at least a couple of years to develop a sympathetic understanding of what men do in an office in order to provide for a family.

2. Plan

Another area that is important to talk about is my plan. I like it when I can tell a woman the specific experiences that I had that cause me to have the plan that I have. For example, my struggles getting apologetics into the churches that I’ve attended have really soured me on church leaders. Another thing I like to talk about are the Christian scholars who are my role models, and how I try to emulate them, and I want my children to emulate them, too. One lady I was speaking to has been studying areas that I care about on her own through books, lectures and debates and then going out into the world and engaging with the people around her. Sometimes just a few people, and sometimes with large groups. Recently she told me that she would like to start a group in her church to study useful books with them. This made me feel very respected. My goals matter to her, and she is trying to help with them on her own initiative, and with her own strategies. Note that women who want to respect men may find that it is useful to learn certain skills in order to be more effective at helping men with their plans. For example, she might study science apologetics and then engage her co-workers and friends with scientific arguments for Christian theism. She should find out what areas matter to him with respect to serving God and then come alongside him and help him. I have a homeschooling mom friend who is busy doing a degree in nursing, which is a very useful skill set to have. Her children are able to see her struggling with hard subjects like chemistry, and that is good for them to see. It’s valuable to a man to have a wife who has practical skills and who can shepherd the children through school and into careers. This same lady is reading Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics, as well.

3. Roles

A final area that is important is my roles as a man. According to the Bible, men are supposed to be the main provider for their families. So, I made the decision early in my life to prefer work to academics – so I have actually been earning money since the time I was 12 years old. My grades were As (and some Bs), but I was always working part-time, and in the summers. The money I earned went straight into investments, so that I would be able to afford two degrees in computer science (BS and MS) and have a nest egg saved for marriage. I had $9,000 before undergraduate school and $16,000 after, with no debts and a current model year used car. I chose computer science over English literature, because I knew that computer science was a more reliable way to earn a living. Marriages run more smoothly when money isn’t a concern, so I did these things in order to make sure that the money to run the marriage would be there.

I think that women should prefer men who take the provider obligation seriously. I feel very respected when a woman takes the time to ask me about my education, research, work history, and investments. Our culture today doesn’t value men taking their provider roles seriously. Instead, many women prefer attractive, entertaining men over men who can provide. I see a lot of Christian women going after men who don’t have the ability to finance a marriage. That is disrespectful of the provider role, and I believe it stems from the desire to not acknowledge male leadership. I believe that some women (ones who struggle with trust issues) prefer men who don’t earn a lot of money, so that the man will not have the authority in the home that comes from the provider role. But when a woman chooses a man with an inadequate education and resume, it also makes it much harder for her to respect him, which is what a man needs a woman to do.

To respect a man acting as a provider also requires voting for policies that support a man’s ability to work (e.g. – less regulation on business, lower corporate taxes) to keep what he earns (lower income tax, lower inflation) and to spend it the way he sees fit (privatization of health care, education, etc.) – and these issues need to be studied, not checked off on a checklist as “we agree”. Studying economics and politics in depth, and being political active, are ways for women to respect men in their provider role by promoting policies that help him to perform that provider role. Women should not be supporting policies that promote the redistribution of wealth via taxes. Women should not vote to reward irresponsibility and dependence, either. It is disrespectful to the man’s provider role to vote for leftist fiscal policy. If you want big government, then you get men who can’t afford to marry. Women need to vote for laws and policies that create more of the hard-working, high-earning men they want to marry.

The provider role is not the only role a man plays, he also has to be experienced at leading others on moral and spiritual issues. In order to evaluate a man’s ability in these areas, women must study these exact same issues so that they are able to prefer evaluate a man’s ability in these areas. Christianity is not a checkbox. Bible reading and church attendance alone do not train a man to engage a secular culture on moral and spiritual issues. Bible reading and church attendance alone do not enable a man to intelligently apply the Bible to areas like economics and foreign policy, either. Yet economics and foreign policy issues do affect families (e.g. Obamacare or border security) , and that’s why men need to be tested to see if they know those things. Marriage requires certain behaviors from men, and those behaviors require knowledge and experience. It’s just like picking a man for a job in a workplace. In order to pick well, you need to know what the job is and what it requires.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to marry a Christian man: a checklist for women to prepare for marriage

Have you ever been in a job interview where the people hiring you just asked you for your opinions instead about your knowledge and experience? Imagine that. I’m a software engineer so in interviews, I get asked software engineering questions about what I know and what I’ve done. Employers never ask me “do you believe in testing your code?” and “do you like continuous integration?” and “how do you feel about design patterns?”. They always ask me about what I know, and what I’ve done with what I know. They ask me what I’ve studied and what skills I’ve put into practice previously. And they call my past employers and make certain that what I’ve told them is true.

Why do they do this? Well, employers do this because they have a specific goal in mind for me – roles that they expect me to fill with specific duties that they need me to help them with. In exchange, they offer me a salary. It would be a very strange thing if they offered me a salary just for having opinions about things that I didn’t know and had never put into practice.

My work consists of creating software for a client. I am used to asking the client about his or her needs are, and helping them to be specific about their needs. I work with the client in order to design a piece of software that will meet their needs. In software engineering, the customer’s needs come first, and the whole process is designed to produce functional code that satisfies the customer. I have a lot of fun working together with people on software and it can be very fulfilling, but the feelings I have about my job don’t matter as much as what I produce for my client. Often, it can mean a lot of self-sacrificial work that is very hard on me. But since the client has paid the bill, I make those sacrifices in order to achieve the client’s goals.

Now consider marriage. In marriage the client of the marriage enterprise is God. His goals are that each of the grown-ups and any children they produce will know him and make him known to others. He expects that the marriage will last a long time and be faithful and loyal. He expects that the marriage will conform to his specifications, not to the specifications on any other ideology – like feminism. He has requirements that are different than any engineer’s desire to be happy. The happiness of the engineers is not God’s primary goal. The happiness that the engineer has comes from achieving the goals of the client. And each engineer does his or her best to make sure other engineers stay focused on those goals and feel good about working for the client. The success of the marriage does not depend primarily on making anyone in the marriage happy, because it is not God’s plan for us to be “happy” in a worldly way. Our model is Jesus, and his example of obedience to God was self-sacrificial love for others, even at the point of suffering and dying for others.

So, when I am considering marriage to a woman, I want to make sure that she understands that the marriage will serve God and to assess how much knowledge and experience she has with the sorts of things that a God-serving marriage will involve. In particular, I am focused on making sure that she knows whether God exists. I want to see whether she has acted on that knowledge in a self-sacrificial, competent way in the past. I want to make sure that she is able to do hard things and bear with evil and suffering while remaining committed to serving God. I want to make sure that she believes in doing her job no matter how hard it gets. I want to see whether she has reasons to believe that morality is real and whether she grounds her convictions about morality in evidence as well as in the Bible. I want to see how much she has been influenced by the society’s descent into postmodernism and moral relativism. I also want her to understand the mechanics of marriage: what are her duties? what are my needs? how do we build faith in children that will last? why do people divorce? why do people cheat? what laws and policies make it easier to do a marriage and to raise Christian children?

So in view of all of that, I’ve written a list of questions below that are the ones I use to discuss marriage with a woman. My goal here is not to see that she already knows about all of these things. My goal is to know whether she sees marriage as a project to serve God, and whether she takes her obligations to serve God seriously and put her happiness second. Very often, the response I get is to these questions is rebellion and refusal to learn or answer. But people generally agree that these questions do what they are intended to do – they check to make sure that God’s goals will be the focus of the marriage. Women who think that the marriage is there to make them happy will not be interested in learning how to answer these questions and then trying to put what they’ve learned into practice.

QUESTIONS

1. Cosmology

What scientific evidence would you point to to show that God created the universe OR that God fine-tuned the universe, or parts of the universe, for intelligent life?

SAMPLE ANSWER: The big bang theory, the fine-tuning argument, galactic habitability, stellar habitability, or terrestrial habitability.

BONUS POINTS: referencing hard evidence like light element abundances, cosmic microwave background radiation, or specific instances of fine-tuning.

WHY IT MATTERS: She can’t be a Christian unless she knows God exists, and that can’t just be based on feelings and community. An awareness of the scientific evidence shows a seriousness about spiritual things – that her belief is rooted in objective reality, not in subjective feelings, culture, community, etc. It’s not “her truth”, it’s “the truth”. If she doesn’t know why she believes, then she can’t be relied upon to make decisions as a Christian, especially in stressful situations. There is always going to be a conflict between doing what one feels like and doing what is consistent with reality. Having scientific facts helps a person to do what they ought to do.

2. Intelligent Design

Explain the concept of intelligent design and explain how it applies to the i) origin of life OR ii) to the fossil record.

SAMPLE ANSWER: Explain the concept of specified complexity and Dembski’s explanatory filter, then explain how it applies to (i) amino acid sequencing or the double helix, OR (ii) to the sudden origin of animal phyla in the Cambrian explosion.

BONUS POINTS: Ideally, for the origin of life question, she’s going to mention things like UV radiation, chirality, cross-reactions and peptide bonds, then calculate the approximate probabilities for generating a protein by chance. For the Cambrian explosion, she should graph out the introduction of phyla over time, and explain the Ediacaran fauna and why they are not precursors to the Cambrian fauna. Bonus points for bashing theistic evolution, or talking about the early earth environment and the problems with forming amino acids.

WHY IT MATTERS: Darwinian evolution is bad science because it is really just philosophy (naturalism) masquerading as science. You can’t marry anyone who pre-supposes a materialist view of metaphysics like naturalists do, and then allows that philosophical assumption to overrule the scientific evidence. You don’t want to be paired up with someone who lets their prejudices overturn data.

3. The problems of evil and suffering

Assuming that Christianity is true, why do you think that God would allow suffering and evil in the world? Distinguish between human evil and natural evil in your answer. Also explain what role you think God’s permission of evil and suffering has in maturing Christians.

SAMPLE ANSWER: Define the deductive and inductive problems of evil, explains several different responses to them, such as free will, character formation, natural law, the ripple effect, etc. Mention the burden of proof for claims that certain evils are gratuitous, i.e. – noseeums.

BONUS POINTS: explaining how evil relates to Christian theology and God’s purposes for humans being knowledge of him and not just happiness, talking about Jesus’ own suffering and the meaning and purpose of it. More bonus points for pointing out how atheists cannot even complain about evil without assuming objective morality, which requires a moral lawgiver.

WHY IT MATTERS: Lots of nasty things can happen in a marriage. Children can get sick or die, jobs can be lost, and so on. It helps when you are dealing with a person who expects it and will not jettison their responsibilities and belief in Christ in order to pursue happiness unencumbered. The main thing is that the woman thinks that the purpose of life is to know God, and that suffering and evil play a role in gaining knowledge of God. You definitely do not want to marry someone who thinks that the purpose of life is happiness, and that God is some big bearded grandfather in the sky who just wants to hand out goodies to people and make sure they are having a good time regardless of what they choose to do.

4. The moral argument

What is the is-ought fallacy? What is the difference between moral objectivism and moral relativism? Give one reason why moral relativism is false. Give one reason why an atheist cannot rationally ground prescriptive morality. Explain why objective morality relates to God’s existence.

SAMPLE ANSWER: Explain the is-ought fallacy. Explain objective and subjective morality. Discuss the reformer’s dilemma and how it refutes relativism. Explain that atheism requires materialism, and materialism denies free will – so moral choices are impossible. Outline the moral argument.

BONUS POINTS: Give more than one reason where only one was asked for, refute attempts to assert objective morality on atheism, explain how moral obligations are related to God’s design for humans.

WHY IT MATTERS: You can’t marry a person who thinks that the moral law is not a brake on their desire to be happy. There are going to be times in the marriage when self-sacrifice is required by the moral law – either for you, for God, or for the children. It will not be easy to be moral then, so you are looking for someone who thinks that morality is real, and not subject to their feelings and whims. It might be worth asking the person when she has had to do the right thing when it was against her self-interest, like those valedictorians who name Jesus in their speeches and then get censored.

5. The resurrection of Jesus

Assume you are talking to a non-Christian. Explain how you would make a case for the bodily resurrection of Jesus on historical grounds. This person does not accept the Bible as inspired and/or inerrant.

SAMPLE ANSWER: Explain the criteria for establishing minimal facts / historical bedrock, list a set of minimal facts, explain why they pass the criteria, propose at least two naturalistic alternatives to the resurrection, and disprove them. MUST mention 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 in order to pass.

BONUS POINTS: listing atheist scholars who support each minimal fact, discussing N.T. Wright’s work on the Jewish concept of resurrection, referencing Richard Bauckham’s work on the gospels as eyewitness testimony, mentioning the pre-suppositions (naturalism, relativism) of liberal scholars like Crossan and Borg.

WHY IT MATTERS: The resurrection is the cornerstone of Christian belief. A person cannot encounter skeptics and not be able to defend the resurrection on historical grounds to them. The resurrection matters to how people act: they act completely differently depending on whether they believe that this life is all there is, or that this life is just a precursor to eternal life with God. You want someone who takes the long-term perspective.

6. World religions

Name two major world religions and argue against them using either the laws of logic, scientific evidence or historical evidence. Explain the concept of middle knowledge, and why it is relevant to the problem of religious pluralism.

SAMPLE ANSWER: Refute Theravada Buddhism with the big bang, or refute Islam with the crucifixion of Jesus, etc. MUST mention specific beliefs of that religion that are testable, and not just argue that they reject Christianity and are therefore false. Explain how middle knowledge reconciles free will and divine sovereignty, and that it also helps to solve the problem of people who have never heard the gospel.

BONUS POINTS: Using evidence that is universally accepted by people outside of that religion. Using scientific evidence. Referencing Acts 17:27 or other Bible passages when explaining middle knowledge. Mentioning objections to middle knowledge, such as the grounding objection.

WHY IT MATTERS: Many younger Christians today believe that Christianity is moralistic therapeutic deism. They think that the purpose of religion is to have good feelings and to be nice to other people and to make other people feel good. It’s all about feelings. You need to make sure that she knows how to make people feel bad and is comfortable doing it, with evidence. Middle knowledge also grounds the person’s willingness to see people as being responsible for their acceptance or rejection of Christ. Instead of taking a hands-off fatalistic approach to salvation, someone who accepts middle knowledge is going to take persuasion seriously and expend effort to try to change the people around them.

7. Abortion

How would you establish that the unborn are fully human and deserve protection? Explain three pro-abortion arguments and then show why they are false. Name three incremental pro-life policies that you would introduce if you were a legislator.

SAMPLE ANSWER: Use the SLED test and the law of biogenesis. Talk about the DNA signature of the unborn being distinct from the mother. Explain and refute the back-alley abortions argument, the it’s the woman’s body argument, the Judith Jarvis Thompson violinist argument, etc. Legislation would be parental notification, banning funding for abortion providers, mandatory sonograms, etc.

BONUS POINTS: Refute more pro-abortion arguments, reference specific legislation that is in-flight or was recently signed into law. Experiences protesting abortion or debating abortion with pro-abortionists. Experience counseling a post-abortive or crisis pregnancy woman. Mentioning biological details of foetus development.

WHY IT MATTERS: Basically, because people who think that sex is for recreation, and that it is ok to kill children to avoid any limits on the pursuit of happiness are not qualified for marriage. You can’t enter into an intimate commitment with someone who is willing to commit murder in order to get out of the consequences of their own selfish pursuit of pleasure. That is not going to work in a marriage – you need someone who makes good decisions, avoids harming others, is chaste and self-controlled, and takes responsibility for her actions when they go awry.

8. Marriage

Explain the public purposes of marriage, and then outline three threats to marriage and explain what legislation you would propose to neutralize these threats. What choices should people make before marriage to make sure they will have a stable, loving marriage?

SAMPLE ANSWER: Some public purposes of marriage are i) to force moral constraints on sexual activity, ii) to produce the next generation of humans, iii) to provide children with a stable, loving environment in which to grow up. Three threats to marriage are i) cohabitation, ii) no-fault divorce – which leads to fatherlessness, and iii) same-sex marriage. There are others, too. For legislation, there are things like tax incentives, shared parenting laws, school choice to de-monopolize politicized public schools, etc. Pre-marriage behaviors are things like chastity, experience with children, having lots of savings, being physically fit, etc. Having a degree in experimental science, math or economics is excellent for a woman. Avoid artsy degrees, especially English.

BONUS POINTS: Name more threats to marriage, explain the effects of fatherlessness on children, explain how divorce courts work, explain how socialism impacts the family through taxation and wealth redistribution, explain what happens to women and children after a divorce.

WHY IT MATTERS: It’s important for people who want to get married that they understand that marriage takes time and effort, and it requires both spouses to prepare for marriage, to be diligent at choosing a good spouse, and to understand what spouses and children need in order to stay engaged.

9. Children

Explain a person you admire and then tell me what you would do as a mother in order to produce that person from one of your children. What are some policies and laws that you would change to make your job easier?

SAMPLE ANSWER: Jay Richards. Jay Richards is one of the most well-rounded Christian scholars operating today. He has knowledge of multiple areas, including economics and science. To make a Jay Richards, you need to be very careful about his education – which could mean homeschooling and saving money for later university tuition, as well as exposing him to apologetics and debates at an earlier age. He would need to have the dedicated attention of his mother for the first two years of his life, at least. Some laws that would help would be lower taxes, school choice, and academic freedom laws.

BONUS POINTS: Explaining how different things like day care, public schools, divorce, etc. harm children. Explaining how mother and fathers contribute to the child’s moral, cognitive, spiritual, etc. development at different times. Explain how the child is harmed if both parents are not present and engaged to play these roles.

WHY IT MATTERS: Marriage is an enormous sacrifice for a man. Not only is there the risk of divorce, but wives and children are very expensive. A man can serve God fine as a bachelor. He has to have compelling reasons why getting married would serve God more than staying single. Producing influential children seems to be one of the major reasons for a man to get married, and he needs to see evidence that his wife is on board with that.

10. Husbands

Explain the roles of a man in a marriage, and tell me some of the things you would do in order to help your man to achieve those roles. What groups would oppose your husband from fulfilling those roles, and what have you done in your life to prepare yourself to help your husband in his roles? What are some of the most important things that a man needs from a woman, and what specific things should a wife do to provide them?

SAMPLE ANSWER: Men are supposed to be protectors, providers and moral/spiritual leaders. In order to help men to be protectors, women have to give them time to study to discern truth from lie, and support their ability to be physically strong, and to own firearms. It is also a good idea for women to have a positive view of good men who use force to restrain evil, as with the American military. Women should support the use of force against radical Islam and terrorists, as well. In order to help men to be providers, women have to advocate for fiscal conservatism in the public square. That would mean advocating for lower taxes, less government spending and smaller government. It would also mean being frugal in the home and helping the man to move ahead at work. If the children are up and out of the house, it could mean going back to work or starting a business to help make ends meet – or monitoring investments. For a man to be a moral and spiritual leader, a woman has to be supporting of him making moral judgments in the home, disciplining the children, holding her accountable for moral errors, and for making exclusive truth claims when it comes to spiritual things. She should not censor him when he gets into debates about spiritual things, even if other people who disagree feel bad – so long as he is not being a jerk. Her goal is not to be popular or liked, but to support her husband in his roles. The most important thing a man needs is respect, and that means treating him as important and significant, being grateful for his contributions, soliciting his opinion on things, being mindful of his male nature, which is more visual and sexual.

BONUS POINTS: Having read “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands”, “Men and Marriage”, “Love and Economics” and “Taken Into Custody”. More bonus points for having written about what she learned about men and marriage from books like that. The goal here is for her to have a real awareness and sympathy for what men are facing as husbands and fathers, and to have an idea of what women can do to support them in their roles.

WHY IT MATTERS: As a man, you have certain needs – the biggest need is for respect. If you are thinking of marrying a woman who cannot define respect, and doesn’t know how to give you respect, then you are going to be in for a world of hurt. The more she views marriage as a joint project with specific goals and external challenges, the more understanding and support you will get. No one wants to fly a plane with someone who doesn’t know how to fly a plane, fix a plane or navigate a plane. The more she knows about men and marriage, the better it will go for you – and the children.

Parting thoughts

This list is not exhaustive, it’s just to give you an idea of the kinds of things you should be looking for. A lot of it is the attitude. You are looking for a woman who does not shift blame onto you, who takes responsibility when she is wrong, who argues using logic and evidence, who loses arguments gracefully, and wins arguments gracefully, and who loves you and cares for you even if you are fighting. If the woman is resentful and doesn’t want to learn anything to deepen her faith, then drop her and find someone who will learn – it will be much better for you to partner with someone lovable and helpful, instead of a selfish lazy feminist.

If I were making a list for women, I would emphasize different things more centered around the specific roles that men play in the marriage – asking for his resume, work history, savings, investments, past relationships with women, parenting ability, self-defense ability, mentoring ability, and especially on moral issues and Christian truth claims.The most important thing that a woman needs is love, and the man should be ready to speak about love at length, and explain how he is going to provide her with love during the courtship and during the marriage. Women need to know that they are significant and desired by the man.

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Support for my view of courting from… Jane Austen?!!

I get into a lot of trouble because I have this loooong list of questions that I pose to women during courtship in order to evaluate them for marriage, and to let them know how I want them to prepare for my plan for the marriage.   Basically, my view of courting is that it is the time for the man to present his plan to serve God as a married couple, and where he wants to be effective, and how he wants to be effective, and where the woman fits into to his plan. The purpose of the pre-marriage courting is for me to explain all of this, and then the woman has the opportunity to first decide if she wants to help with that plan and then demonstrate that she can help with it. My job after laying out the plan is to make sure that she has all the tools she needs and lots of affection and tenderness, too. I am auditioning for the roles of protector, provider and moral/spiritual leader. And she is auditioning for the roles of helper, motivator and nurturer.

Anyway, all of that is evil, if you ask any non-Christians and Christians today. The ladies in my workplace are always telling me that I am “too strict” and that I need to “lower my standards”. What they mean by this is that they resent me taking on the role of leader in the relationship and telling them what marriage to me will be about and what they need to be able to do to help. And they especially resent having to prove that they can do it. Men they’ve known in the past have been pacified with some earnest words of agreement, and maybe some hugs and kisses. But that doesn’t work on me. I want books to be read, and actions to be performed.

For example, I want public speeches defending marriage, presentations on abortion in church, apologetics book clubs, apologetics conference organizing, apologetics lectures and debates in the local university, economics degrees, law school degrees, and pro-family conservative political views. (These are all the things my current favorite lady and her predecessors have done / are doing). In short, if I am coming to the table with lots of evidence that I can do my roles, then I want to see evidence that she  can do her roles. I call this view of courtship the wisdom view, and the popular alternative to it I call the fairy tale view.

The funniest thing is that right now I am working together with a woman who is very very high up in her profession. Manages dozens of people, has her own receptionist, wins lots of awards. Her job is incredibly stressful. But the funniest thing is that she is actually the easiest one of all to lead. And that’s because she is a good listener and she reads a ton of books and then independently designs and executes operations designed to move the ball forward on the things that I care about. She thinks my vision for serving God is good, and she knows how to get the job done, without being micromanaged. Here is a close-up of some flowers that I sent her recently to recognize her. She is also the least attention seeking female of the ones I know. She doesn’t want public recognition for what she does.

And with that said, let’s take a look at a quote about my favorite British author, Jane Austen, courtesy of Reformed Seth’s blog:

[Austen] was committed to the ideal of “intelligent love,” according to which the deepest and truest relationship that can exist between human beings is pedagogic. This relationship consists in the giving and receiving of knowledge about right conduct, in the formation of one person’s character by another, the acceptance of another’s guidance in one’s growth. The idea of a love based in pedagogy may seem quaint to some modern readers and repellent to others, but unquestionably it plays a decisive part in the power and charm of Jane Austen’s art. And if we attempt to explain the power and charm that the genre of the novel exercised in the nineteenth century, we must take full account of its pedagogic intention and of such love as a reader might feel was being directed towards him in the solicitude of the novel for his moral well-being, in its concern for the right course of his development.

- Lionel Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971), 82.

There! I’m vindicated by someone who ought to know how these things work. When I was a young man, I read everything I could get my hands on from Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. It’s nice to know that I wasn’t misinterpreting what they were telling me, and that I’ve applied it well. Just because it’s not “cool” today, doesn’t mean it’s not right.

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