Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Should Christians “guard their hearts” in relationships? What does that even mean?

Here are my two disagreements with Jonathan’s post on courting that appeared on this blog yesterday.

He writes this:

If you have followed the above procedure and have gotten as far as the relationship stage, I would suggest that there should be an increasingly greater level of commitment as the relationship continues to progress. In my case, I would not terminate a relationship without a very good reason once I have agreed to commit myself to the relationship. Do not take this commitment lightly.

It is important, however, that both parties take care to guard their (and each other’s) hearts, especially during the early days of the relationship, in case the relationship for whatever reason does not work out. This practice ensures that you will both be able to give your heart more completely to your future spouse. If you end up not being the husband of a girl whom you have dated, you want to be able to look that girl’s future husband in the eye and tell him with a clear conscience that you took good care to guard her heart for him.

I would suggest limiting physical contact to holding hands and the occasional hug during the early days of the relationship. Kissing should be reserved for significantly downstream in the relationship, until you have been together for a considerable period of time.

You should also avoid, whenever possible, being left alone together for long periods of time – where temptation may strike you and cause you to fall into sin. Meet together in public places or involve family and friends.

I disagree that the correct interpretation of “guard your heart” (from Proverbs 4:23) means “don’t love someone to the best of your ability until you are sure you won’t get hurt”. The correct thing to do is to love God with everything you have, and then to let that flow to others – especially others you have chosen to court because you see glimpses of who God wants them to be and you want to invest in them to get them there.

Here’s an article from Relevant that makes the point:

Quote:

When it comes to our relationships, I think we’re missing something. Jesus summarizes our highest command as: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).

[…]According to Mark 12:30, Jesus wants us to be all in. And when we love Him with our all, it will help shape our perspective of earthly relationships, romantic and otherwise. When we are totally firm and secure in God’s love for us, we will be less worried about “guarding our hearts” from pain and heartbreak as we relate to others.

Jesus is the greatest example of this. He loved His Father so much He was not afraid of getting hurt by loving others. On the contrary, He died for relationships. Jesus sacrificed everything for love. He did this to restore not only our relationship with Him but our relationships with each other. His body was broken for us—not just His heart. Clearly, Jesus wasn’t afraid of a broken heart, mind or body. What would happen if we had the same perspective?

Relationships are risky business, and there’s no guarantee you won’t end up with a broken heart. But because of Christ’s love, the fear of a broken heart no longer has to be the motivating factor. 1 John 4:18 says: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” We can fulfill the greatest commandment because of God’s perfect example in the flesh.

Christ’s mission was to leave Paradise and sacrifice Himself on the altar of love. Even when it appears Jesus struggles with going through with this plan, He prays: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:42). His whole life was dedicated to making us whole; He loved us with His mind, body, heart and strength so that we might also be able to love wholly.

And here’s another support from Mars Hill Church:

Quote:

The first error we can make is to guard our hearts in such a way that there is no possible way we can get hurt. We keep relationships shallow, people at arm’s length, and anyone from getting to know us at the heart level. The Bible is the most honest book ever written—it makes no claim that if we “guard our heart” we will avoid pain and heartache in this life (1 Peter 1:6–7). It is simply not God’s will for us to be isolated, walled off, and invulnerable.

I have heard the “guard your heart” barrier invoked by Christian women who urge me to read the Bible more and be more spiritual, and it makes me suspect that their sexual history is coming into play – they’ve made poor decisions with non-Christian men and now they are misusing the Bible to refuse good things to good men because of their past experience with bad men. When a woman is on a marriage track with a man, she needs to love him like she’s never been hurt.

I do not think that it is fair for bad men to be trusted MORE than good men. Women need to learn to 1) make better decisions when they choose a man (don’t choose an immoral and irreligious man in order to avoid moral/spiritual judgment and/or abandonment), and 2) to love good men as if they have never been hurt, lest those good men get sick and tired of being distrusted and pushed outside barriers, and move on to someone else.

Men like to be trusted. Men like vulnerability. Men like authenticity. Men like engagement. If we are constantly rebuffed even though we are chaste, we do move on to someone who is more lovable. I don’t think that an unchaste man deserves to have access to trust, vulnerability, authenticity and engagement – but a chaste man does. That’s what he is offering, too.

As long as the couple avoids sexual physical contact, then any break up is going to be far less painful than it would be if there were a physical (especially sexual) component. To love someone well, to build them up, to let them go do amazing things for the Lord – this does not hurt. I am still friends with women I’ve courted who hurt me, but it doesn’t last more than a month or two. Then you’re friends again and the friendship lasts.

My second disagreement with Jonathan is about kissing. For me kissing on the cheek or hand is OK, but kissing on the lips should be reserved for the day of engagement. If the man is on his knees with a ring, and she accepts, he should kiss her on the lips to seal the promise. After that, kissing on the lips is fine with me. But not before.

Filed under: Mentoring, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When is it appropriate for Christians to start dating?

First, read this article from a Crisis Pregnancy Center worker.

Excerpt:

I have a bone to pick with young, socially conservative Americans, and I know it’s something that will get under your skin. Just sit tight, though, and hear me out, because the elephant in our tidy little room is starting to tear things up. It’s time we acknowledge his existence, and maybe even call in some animal movers to take him back to the zoo.

I currently live in a small community in the Bible-belt of the country and I have been given some opportunities to mentor young people from my area through different venues. I can count on one hand the kids I know from the local high school whose parents have never been divorced.  I’ve witnessed reactions of genuine surprise and envy from students who hear that my parents are still together. In any given conversation with groups of youth, I can expect to hear continual references to step-parents, step-siblings, and half-siblings. Divorce is a way of life down here – albeit one that has taken its toll in the lives of the young people that will make up the next generation.

However, while I could certainly write extensively on my experience with the negative effects of divorce on children and on society at large, I actually want to address something else entirely.  I have concerns about the number one way that our culture chooses to perpetuate the cancer of broken marriages and failed relationships– underage dating.

You can follow them on Facebook – the failed attempts at love, I mean. Somebody is always changing their status from “in a relationship” to “single.” Unfortunately, a huge number of these disappointed lovers are too young to be legally married. I wonder sometimes if I am the only one who winces to hear a thirteen-year old speak with cavalier abandon of his or her “ex?”  Since when is it considered healthy and acceptable for underage people to be in “relationships?” Just what do parents and educators expect to be the result of the romantic conquests of these middle-school children and young high school students? The results I’ve witnessed personally are beyond disturbing; they are downright sinister, and have caused me to question whether or not those who claim to champion marital fidelity and family values are paying any attention at all to the standards we are passing to our children.

The trouble with underage dating is that it presents an entirely faulty view of what interaction with the opposite gender should be about. Rather than placing emphasis on building one strong relationship with one person at a stage of life when a marital commitment is feasible, dating encourages young people to pour their energies into consistently seducing other young people at a time when neither of them are capable of making any long-term commitments. Their “relationships” are destined to fail from the get-go because they are founded on unhealthy perceptions of love and not backed by any real necessity to stick it out.

The beauty of marriage, as it was intended to be, is that it teaches two people of opposite genders to learn to work through incompatibilities and give of themselves. In the same way, the great ugliness of dating as it is practiced by our culture and portrayed by our media, is that it teaches two people of opposite genders to be selfish by giving them an easy “out” when things don’t go according to their initial feelings. I believe it is fair to say that this form of dating is a training manual for divorce, because it encourages young people to grow accustomed to giving their hearts away and then taking them back.

Sadly, parents who should know better continue to display shocking naïveté regarding the absurd practices of driving their twelve year olds out on a “date,” or purchasing provocative clothing for their sixteen-year-olds, or sympathizing with their broken-hearted fourteen-year-olds by assuring them that they’ll “find someone better.” “They’re just having fun,” they’ll tell us, rolling their eyes at what they consider to be our tightly wound principles. I work a volunteer shift at Crisis Pregnancy Clinic where I witness every week the ruined lives and broken dreams that “fun” has left with our youth.

And now here’s my take.

Basically, you can start dating as a prelude to courting when the woman and man are able to demonstrate to the other person that they are ready to fulfill their roles in the marriage.

For example, the woman should be able to show that she has been able to maintain commitments to caring for others through some period of time, maybe with small children or pets. She should be voluntarily entering into relationships and responsibilities with other people where she is giving of herself – like volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center or caring for an ailing or elderly relative. That shows potential suitors that she has the right attitude to relationships – serving others self-sacrificially, and not looking for tingles and amusement. She should be able to show that she is good at making commitments and solving problems by studying hard subjects in school like nursing, economics, biology, chemistry, physics, engineering or computer science. That shows that she is able to do hard things that she doesn’t feel like doing, and apply herself over time until she has a degree. Obviously being conservative politically and being good at apologetics are also important if she intends to raise children.

And for the man, he should be able to show that he is able to do his roles – protector, provider and moral/spiritual leader. He should be able to prove that he is able to mentor and guide other people to learn things and do things that will make them more effective Christians. That’s moral and spiritual leadership. He should have studied a subject that is going to allow him to find work. If he is committed to going to graduate school, then he can study philosophy and law and other “world-changing” subjects, like a William Lane Craig or a Ryan Anderson. Otherwise, he should study things like petroleum engineering, computer science, or other fields that will allow him to be stable and secure. It’s not enough to be a hard worker, you have to be able to pull in the money and save it and still have time left over to care for your wife and lead the children. Again, conservative politics and apologetics are a must.

I think there are other ways for men and women to show that they are ready for marriage, but those are some ways. The key thing is that people shouldn’t be dating until they are able to show that they know the roles that they are expected to fill in marriage as men and women. They should also be looking for the right things in others. They can’t be looking for the shallow things that give them tingles, like looks, athleticism, etc. They can’t be looking for sexual attraction, primarily. Marriage requires specific behaviors from men and women, which are derived from what men and women do in marriage. Before men and women start dating, they have to be able to show that they are working on being able to handle their responsibilities, and they have to show that their selection criteria for the opposite sex are at least partly based on the responsibilities that the opposite sex has in a marriage. Otherwise they are just training to be governed by their tingles and to be selfish and to break up when all that falls apart.

Filed under: Mentoring, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Advice for single women struggling to get a man to commit

Here’s Cassy writing about it at PJ Media.

Excerpt:

So every single guy you start dating ends up being a jerk, huh? They cheat on you, they cut and run after just a few weeks, or after a few promising months they announce that they’re not ready for a relationship. So you sit there and bemoan your poor, pitiful dating life and wonder why – why? – you can’t meet any good guys.

Well, here’s the thing: you do meet good guys. And then you go on to ignore them in favor of the bad boy who has a reputation, because you just know that the magic of your love will change him. Or you refuse to take a look in the mirror to figure out why every guy you date runs away as fast as his feet can take him. You come on too strong, you’re too clingy, you’re too needy. Heck, maybe it’s all of the above.

If every single guy that you date ends up being someone that you label as a jerk and a heartbreaker, well, the problem isn’t everybody else. You can lie to yourself and say that you just can’t meet any good guys, but they’re out there all right. You just ignore them, put them in the “friend zone,” or scare them away with your psychotic, desperate behavior.

And more:

Guy and girl meet. They exchange numbers, go on a date or two, and really hit it off. Sparks are flying, guy says all the right things, and girl thinks he might be the one. So what does she do? She hops into bed with him, thinking that sex will seal the deal… and their budding romance will turn into a full-blown exclusive relationship. Unfortunately for girl, guy is just happy to score, and that magical night of passion will do absolutely nothing to convince guy to stick around. Now he’s even more likely to bolt, having already gotten what he wants out of her. Meanwhile, she’s telling herself that having sex with him after two dates was totally a good idea, because he liked her so much.

In reality, having sex with a guy right away is never a good idea. You don’t need to sleep with someone in order to make your bond stronger. If you do have this amazing connection, then you don’t need sex to solidify it. And if he’s any kind of decent man who is actually interested in you, then he’ll wait anyway.

Stuart Schneiderman adds this:

Fiano’s advice might seem redundant, but as long as so many women get hurt in bad relationships, it’s worth examining her observations.

Given the anguish that attends a failed relationship, it makes sense that women have devised a series of face-saving explanations.

All begin with the staple: all men are jerks.

Fiano responds that perhaps all the men you are choosing are jerks, but if that is the case, then you are choosing the wrong men.

There are good men out there. Unfortunately, women who have followed the modern dating plan are more likely to go with their hearts and guts than with their heads.

If they have involved themselves in hookups or friends with benefits relationships they have been traumatized to the point where they continue to be attracted to the same kind of man, over and over again.

Women who have suffered a series of relationship failures have learned how to deal with relationship failure. They have not, however, learned how to conduct a successful relationship.

Women rationalize their bad decision by saying, Fiano suggests, that their love can transform a man from a frog into a prince.

It cannot.

Get over yourself.

I’ve blogged before about how many single women choose men based on shallow criteria, especially appearance – and also about how many single women rely too much on their emotions instead of studying male roles and choosing the right man for the job. Single women often believe that they can change a bad, but attractive, man into a good man by giving him recreational premarital sex. They actually think that it is easier to convert a bad man with sex than to pick a good man and give him respect – but it doesn’t work, as I explained before. They are looking to control a man without having to respect him or serve him. This early sex practice does not work: early sex ruins the quality of the relationship.

Stuart ends his post with this:

Women should ask themselves how they could have believed that men would find them more attractive if they were strong, independent feminists.
Women should ask themselves who told them. 
It wasn’t men. In fact, today’s modern woman has been trained not to listen to men or to respect men.
They reaping what they and their feminist handlers sowed.

Men love to have someone intelligent and experienced as a companion, but that woman has to be willing to help them achieve their goals by following the man’s lead. Men have a need to lead. They absolutely need to be respected as leaders. What I have found is that you cannot even get most single women today to read anything harder than C.S. Lewis these days – they are not willing to follow you even when you are grooming them to be effective wives and mothers – to raise quality children and to impact the university, the church and the public square.

Most single women want happiness – they don’t want a man to lead them – not even to lead them into effective influence for the Lord Jesus’ sake. It’s amazing. 20 years of church, and few Christian women (in my experience) have the desire to let a man lead them to serve God more effectively. They just don’t care. They just read Harry Potter. They just want to travel. They just want to have a good time. The pastors never tell single women anything to counteract the feminism.

Send Cassy’s article far and wide! Maybe we’ll save the culture from the ravages of radical feminism. Maybe more children will grow up with a mother and a father.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Elusive Wapiti updates his “Marry a Zealot” post

The Elusive Wapiti updates his marital advice for young Christian men.

He begins like tis:

Ten months ago, I published the second installment in the ‘Advice to My Sons’ series, titled “Marry a Zealot“, in which I exhort them and others to become fervent Believers–and seek out other Believers as mates–to best insure them against the ravages of divorce should they marry.

The point of that post was to highlight the additional protection that serious religious conviction, as indicated by active religious attendance, provides them against divorce, an important consideration for men in the post-Christian West nowadays. By way of contrast, a secondary point of that post was to show that mere self-identification or occasional participation in religious services exposed a fellow of the marrying kind to greater risk of marital disruption than if he and/or his wife had no religious affiliation at all.

Since the link to the pdf that supported that post has since disappeared, I did some spadework to recover the data that supports this advice.  I was able to locate it here, on page 9 of the scholarly article Bad News about the Good News–The Construction of the Christian-Failure NarrativeJournal of Religion & Society, volume 14.  The article drew the data shown in the following tables from the General Social Survey, 1980-2009.

His main concern is how religious belief correlates with divorce.

Here shows the evidence then says this:

When one takes one’s faith seriously enough to put it into action, as measured in this case by attending church at least once per week, this behavior appears to yield anti-divorce benefits.  Yet I am thoroughly unimpressed with a 38% divorce rate for Evangelicals, a group whose noisy claims to family values are belied by their itchy dissolutive trigger fingers. Moreover, the picture for active black Protestants remains dark and grim; their marriages garner no protection whatsoever from church attendance.  The data for Roman Catholics is much more encouraging, and it seems that the RCC has been more effective than Protestant denominations at countering the scourge of divorce. Perhaps the theological rigidity and hierarchical structure associated with Marianism makes it less vulnerable to socio-political contagions like feminism and divorce, while the, ahem, diversity, of Protestantism makes it more prone to worldly influences.

I think that it is a good idea in general for young men to not leave marriage at the level of feelings. I have posted before a list of questions to find out if a woman is a zealot. I think that young Christian men should read Wapiti’s post and then my post and then act accordingly.

Filed under: Mentoring, , , , , , ,

Marriage advice from Christian philosopher William Lane Craig

Here is a question of the week from Dr. Craig on “Marriage Advice”!

Here’s the question:

Dear Dr. Craig,

Marriage is in the foreseeable future, and I would like to ask you for any advice before it happens. Can we avoid any mistakes? Would it be helpful to meet with a pastor for premarital counseling? Are there any helpful tips you could give from a Christian perspective or from your own experience?

Thank you in advance!

Zareen

Here are the main pieces of advice Dr. Craig gives:

  1. Resolve that there will be no divorce
  2. Delay having children
  3. Confront problems honestly
  4. Seek marital counseling
  5. Take steps to build intimacy in your relationship

And here’s the controversial one (#2):

2. Delay having children. The first years of marriage are difficult enough on their own without introducing the complication of children. Once children come, the wife’s attention is necessarily diverted, and huge stresses come upon you both. Spend the first several years of marriage getting to know each other, working through your issues, having fun together, and enjoying that intimate love relationship between just the two of you. Jan and I waited ten years before having our first child Charity, which allowed me the finish graduate school, get our feet on the ground financially, establish some roots, and enjoy and build our love relationship until we were really ready to take on the responsibilities of parenthood. The qualifier here is that if the wife desperately wants children now, then the husband should accede to her wish to become a mother, rather than withhold that from her. Her verdict should be decisive. But if you both can agree to wait, things will probably be much easier.

I wonder if the married readers agree with him about the “waiting at least a year after marriage bafore having children”?

Filed under: Mentoring, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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