Tag Archives: Chastity

Is it the man’s responsibility to pursue the woman, or the other way around?

Telling a woman how to make wise decisions protects her
Telling a woman how to make wise decisions protects her

If you ask this question theoretically, most people will probably say that it’s the man’s responsibility, especially in the church. Is this because women don’t like the idea of having to plan out and achieve something? Maybe. But what is interesting is that the man-pursues view is very popular in the church, even though it’s not very common in the Bible. Dalrock posted something about this.

He writes:

One comment I see from fathers with surprising regularity is that their unmarried daughter is in a great position to find a husband because she’s not remotely interested in the kind of men who express interest in her.

I… think this is tied into the erroneous idea that the Bible teaches that men should pursue and women should judge the performance. But it isn’t the Bible that teaches this ethic, it is the religion of Courtly Love that teaches this. Think of the only two women to have books of the Bible named after them. Both Ruth and Esther pursued their eventual husbands. Ruth’s pursuit of Boaz resulted in her being the grandmother of King David, which meant that Christ would come from her line. Esther’s pursuit of Ahasuerus allowed her to save the Jews.

Cane Caldo was actually the first to write about this on his blog:

According to traditionalists (and others): Men are supposed to chase, and women are supposed to be caught. Or they might say: Men are to initiate, and women are to respond.

[…]If you fancy yourself a traditionalist… [s]earch your Bible for a story about a man who woos a woman directly.

So, just consider that for a minute. Ruth is probably the best example of a woman who just makes decisions to get on with life, and happens across a wealthy single man. Then she consults with Naomi and takes action to pursue that man. It works out for her. Where in the Bible does the man pursue the woman?

Derek Ramsey was able to come up with two examples, and he commented on Dalrock’s blog:

You can find examples of all cases in the Bible: fully arranged marriages (for Isaac), where the man pursued the woman (Jacob; Hosea), where the woman pursued the man (Ruth; Esther), and where both pursued each other or it wasn’t clearly stated one way or the other (Samson; Solomon). I would argue that pursuit (by either sex) is neither condemned nor encouraged. Each situation is different and there is no rule one way or the other.

I think that Derek wins the argument, here. But I still think that practically speaking, in such a time (of feminism) as this, it’s much much wiser for women to take action to “pursue” men she is interested in. That doesn’t mean asking men out, though.

thedeti explains in a comment:

A man setting his sights on one or two or three women and then pursuing them really hard trying to get on their radar isn’t the best way to find a woman who’s interested in him and who is the best match.

Instead, he should be his best version of himself, and then see which women are tossing subtle signs of interest at him. Which women just kind of show up where he is, which ones make a point to say hi to him, which ones reach out to him, which ones contact him, which ones strike up conversations with him. And then from THOSE women he should select a few he is interested in and then pursue them.

That certainly isn’t what most Christians are teaching their children. I certainly wasn’t taught this.

And a bit later, thedeti says:

In the current #MeToo climate, false rape allegations, and sexual harassment’s current definition as “any conduct or words uttered by any man anywhere that any woman within sight or earshot didn’t like”, this model can be downright dangerous for men.

A man can no longer just pick a few girls he’s interested in and pursue them. If he selects some girls who dont’ like him, he’s in for a world of hurt by trying to “perform” for them. If he selects one who kind of likes him, but he makes even one wrong move or says one remotely mildly offensive thing, he’s done. Not only will she know about it, all her friends will know too.

When a woman is very interested and shows it, she’ll be much more forgiving of his expected missteps. That gives him room to run, and gives a budding relationship the space it needs to germinate and grow.

Deti advises women to just show up in places where men they are interested in are, and not actively discourage them. Maybe ask him questions about what he is doing as a Christian, and ask for his advice about something he knows about, etc. And deti warns women to consider that in a culture where false accusations and frivolous no-fault divorces are everywhere, men with good educations, degrees and finances will be very careful about pursuing women.

My thoughts

I was speaking to someone who thinks that she wants to be pursued by a man. I suggested that she read the book of Ruth to counter her view. The first and most important piece of advice I gave her was to “cross the room” for any man she is interested in. Stand up, walk directly at him, and speak right in his face. Maintain eye contact and speak directly to him about things he is interested in. On another day, I told her that the most important thing you can ask a man about is his vision to serve God.

As women age and lose their beauty, the only thing that remains is the man’s passion – his plan – and the place of the woman within it. Men stay in love with women who have invested in the plan they made to serve God. Naturally, it’s POINTLESS to choose any man unless he has a plan to serve God effectively that he has demonstrated his willingness to sacrifice for. In my case, writing this blog is a sacrifice, and giving money to Christian apologists and pro-life debaters is a sacrifice. A woman should be skeptical about anything a man says – look at what he has already done for his vision, and whether he is actually practical and determined enough to achieve anything. That’s where you’ll find your place. And that’s what you need to investigate in a husband candidate. Standing back and remaining passive, waiting to be pursued, is just going to attract a lot of non-Christian men who are pursuing you for sex. If the man is pursuing you, and he hasn’t told you his vision (why he needs you as his wife anyway), then he wants sex.

The pursuit of women by non-Christian alpha male bad boys seems to be welcomed, surprisingly, by a lot of passive Christian women who kind of lie back and expect to just acquiesce to experiences that feel good. Women today don’t like to think about marriage in a structured way. And they especially don’t want to be asked by men about past decisions, demonstrated abilities, future wife responsibilities and obligations, etc. (How dare men evaluate them for a marriage plan!) They don’t want marriage, defined as self-sacrificial commitment. They want marriage as constant tingles, supplied by an alpha male bad boy who exists solely to generate feelings of happiness in them, and feelings of envy in their girlfriends. Think about marriage as a plan? That’s boring. Let’s get drunk and hook up with an alpha male bad boy, and see if he calls back after the abortion.

Alpha male bad boys feel good (for a while) and this is how women get trapped into relationships with men who have no reason to commit to them. A much better strategy is to stop being attracted to alpha male bad boys, and deliberately engage in conversations with marriage-ready men. As my friend Lindsay says, you need to learn to become attracted to men who have a vision that will survive the loss of your youth and beauty.

In my own case, I’ll be able to retire at 50 with a net worth well north of 7 figures. Because of this, it would be stupid for me to waste my time pursuing Christian women whose criteria for men has nothing to do with the marriage enterprise, and is INDISTINGUISHABLE from the criteria used by non-Christian women. The ONLY thing that would catch my eye at this point is a woman who is equal to me (chaste, no tattoos, STEM degree(s), debt-free, married parents, house or savings, into apologetics, conservative politics, and between the ages of 23-28). And that’s a minimum. And she can forget about being pursued by me. She’ll have to approach me, and question me about what my plan is, and where she would fit into it.

I’ve often been told by wise female Christian advisors that I need to do a better job of showing off my situation to women. But if I spent the money on sparkly things and fun, I wouldn’t be financially secure, would I? It’s up to women to stop being so shallow and emotional. They need to look beyond appearances and fun. They need to have a marriage focus, and they need to choose men, show up and start investigating and investing. I simply don’t have the time to flail around in a feminist culture where women, including Christian women, are woefully unqualified for the marriage enterprise. It’s not my job, after having made thousands of good decisions, to risk my fortune by pursuing women who have made thousands of bad decisions (promiscuity, debt, useless degrees, etc). The entitled attitudes of women today, including Christian women, is nothing short of astonishing to men like me who have spent a lifetime being careful about being chaste, sober, practical, frugal and effective.

Alistair Begg has a great sermon series on Ruth that emphasizes Ruth’s agency, and her willingness to make decisions that were practical without any sort of being led by feelings or being nudged by God. Christian women, if you want to get married, then get to work on finding a man and making it easy for him to choose you.

Don’t dismiss best practices for Christian living as “legalism” and “denying grace”

On Sunday, I listened to a very interesting discussion between Sean McDowell and Jessica van der Wyngaard on Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable show. The topic was on the pros and cons of purity culture. I didn’t know a thing about “purity culture”, and had never read any books about it. I didn’t really disagree with anyone on the podcast, but I did want to say something about it in a blog post.

Description:

20 years ago Joshua Harris was the poster boy of the evangelical ‘purity movement’ having authored the bestselling book ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’. Today, Harris regrets writing the book, and has also recently changed his mind about Christianity.

Justin is joined by Jessica van der Wyngaard, director of the documentary film ‘I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye’, and Christian apologist Sean McDowell, to discuss purity culture, singleness and the Joshua Harris story.

The MP3 file is here.

First, here’s a brief summary of what everyone said on the podcast:

  • JW: the book urged people to give up dating in favor of courting and suggested other rules that would guarantee a successful marriage to your soul-mate
  • JW: some of the rules proposed by the book were not Biblical
  • JW: I’m not a virgin and I’m in early-30s, but I accept that we should teach what the Bible says about abstinence
  • SM: purity culture is the idea that if you remain sexually pure, God will give you a spouse and bless you in the future
  • SM: purity culture is the idea that if you have premarital sex, you will be tainted forever
  • SM: I’m afraid that those reacting against purity culture will build a sexual ethic solely based on their shame, their hurt, their concern about legalism, and this will not help the next generation
  • SM: let’s have a balanced Biblical approach to sexuality instead
  • SM: there is scientific data to back up the Bible’s teaching that marriages work better when sex occurs only within a marriage
  • SM: it’s a mistake to define your spiritual standing based on whether you are a virgin or not
  • SM: following the Bible’s rules for sexuality is an important part of discipleship
  • SM: the Bible is replete with examples of people restoring their standing before God through forgiveness and redemption

Right now, we are living in a secular culture where people are hooking up, having premarital sex, living together, and breaking up far more often than in the past. There is this pattern of choosing partners based on secular criteria: outward appearance and ability to entertain. And this approach to dating – choosing people for the wrong reasons, and trying to force a commitment using premarital sex – is now common practice, even among Christians.

I think people should have a plan to counter this trend that’s realistic and guided by studies and evidence. For example, studies show that people who have no sexual partners before marriage are more likely to still be married 10 years later. Studies show that cohabitation negatively impacts the stability of a future marriage. It’s difficult to accept that this is the way the world is, but if a stable marriage is a goal for you, then you should care about the best practices for having a stable marriage.

Take a different example. Suppose you have a lot of shame and bad feelings over having run up $90,000 of student loans. Now your retirement will be much more difficult. The answer to these feelings of shame is not to say that you can invoke “grace” and that will make everything OK. It won’t. It might help you to make better decisions going forward, but that debt is going to affect your future spouse, your future marriage and your future children.

There are real costs to these behaviors for your future, and being forgiven through Jesus’ atonement isn’t going to instantly make the effects of those choices disappear. It’s good to warn young people about these costs. It’s also good to help people who have made mistakes undo the damage by investing in them. I don’t want us to throw out evidence-based best practices as “legalism”, because they help us to reach the discipleship goals specified for us in the Bible.

The goals of the Bible (e.g. – not aborting, not divorcing) are good goals. If we find out from science that premarital promiscuity or cohabitation reduce our odds of achieving Biblical goals, then it’s a mistake to dismiss that evidence because it make us feel bad about our past. It’s not legalism to investigate evidence and consult wise advisors in order to choose how best to achieve goals like marriage. That’s actually being wise.  Making good decisions doesn’t give you the right to be proud and compare yourself to others, but it is good to make good decisions for yourself, and to share your reasoning with those who ask you.

I agree with the speakers that purity culture is wrong to promise people a happy marriage if they only keep their virginity. That’s just the prosperity gospel, and it really is not a Biblical view of the Christian life.

People who choose to have premarital sex haven’t separated themselves from marriage. But studies indicate that they have damaged the stability of their future marriage if they do nothing to counteract the effects of their choices. And I think there is more to counteracting these bad effects than just stating to your partner “Jesus forgives me, so you can’t judge me”. The focus of the “no-rules because I feel ashamed” crowd doesn’t seem to be on taking the damage seriously and fixing it. Their focus seems to be on not being judged.

I don’t think that a cursory response (“don’t judge me!”) is adequate to undo the damage from premarital sex. But if a person is willing to be honest about their past, and put in the work to understand the effects of premarital sex on their future marriage, renew their minds, and re-establishing their bonding ability, then they should be able to fully counteract the damage. I have met people who have done this, and you can see in their choices and lifestyle that there’s been a complete turning against their former use of sex for fun and attention and self-esteem. It’s not “idolizing virginity and idolizing marriage” to look at the data, and make choices that are likely to lead to a stable marriage.

Lori Alexander is right: serious Christian men prefer debt-free virgins without tattoos

Marriage stability vs sexual partners,(Teachman et al. JAMF, August 2010)
Marriage stability vs sexual partners,(Teachman et al. JAMF, August 2010)

Christian writer Lori Alexander recently wrote a blog post (H/T Lindsay) urging Christian women to do 3 things:

  1. be a virgin before marriage
  2. be debt-free before marriage
  3. don’t get any tattoos

She also urged women to be cautious about college, because it often gets them into debt. I disagree with her a little here. I always urge young women to earn a STEM degree in college, then work a few years to pay off their loans (if any) before marrying. This is because women, like men, need to have the experience of doing something hard that they don’t “feel” like doing, in order to grow. STEM degrees teach young people that the world doesn’t revolve around them, and that their feelings don’t matter when trying to solve a problem in the real world. It’s a very useful way for women and men to break themselves out of the desire for free and easy happiness that is so common in our time.

Lori’s article drew enormous opposition from both secular and Christian sources. So far, the only people defending her are men’s rights sites, like Dalrock (Christian) and Spawny (non-Christian). Every other “Christian” blog or news site that I read disagreed her article, and argued that premarital sex was no big deal, that having debt was no big deal, and that having tattoos was no big deal.

Let’s take a look at her three points, then I’ll explain why her article is largely correct, and why she is correct about what she asserts about the criteria that godly men have for women.

Even one non-husband premarital sex partner raises risk of divorce
Even one non-husband premarital sex partner raises risk of divorce

Virginity

Regarding her first point, virginity is commanded by the Bible, it’s in line with peer-reviewed studies on marriage quality and stability. The reason that people find this difficult is that they want the freedom to give in to sexual desires without feeling shame. They want to believe that there is no permanent effect. It doesn’t help that parents and pastors are terrified of telling young people, and young women in particular, that promiscuity harms marital stability. Right now, the culture is drowning in feminism. Feminism tells women that the traditional male roles of provider, protector, and spiritual leader are “sexist”. The “best” men are good-looking pro-abortion bad boys. If a Christian woman is not able to think through the meaning of sex with respect to marriage enough to control herself, it seriously harms the stability of her future marriage.

Starting and Mid-Career salaries by profession (click for larger image)
Starting and Mid-Career salaries by profession (click for larger image)

Debt-free

Regarding her second point, almost everything a serious Christian man might plan to do for Christ with his marriage is impacted by finances. From education, to marriage timing, to number of children, to home ownership, early investment, to the success of children. to age of retirement. Less money means fewer choices, and less ability to counter challenges. Think of how important money for legal defense is to Christian-owned businesses who are being persecuted, for example. The reason that many people find the Bible’s teaching on stewardship difficult is that they don’t want to exercise self-control with money if they don’t feel like it. They want to waste money seeking fun and thrills, and then act like their poverty could not be avoided. Being debt-free is an indicator of practical wisdom and self-control in a woman.

Hugh Hewitt's "In, But Not Of", Chapter 9: Tattoos, Don't
Chapter 9 of Hugh Hewitt’s “In, But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition”

Tattoos

Tattoos are a problem for serious Christian men for several reasons. First, they cost money and for no gain, and can even cause you losses in your career. Second, most people get them because of low self-esteem or vanity or to look rebellious or to look dangerous. None of these motivations should be acted upon by someone with a robust Christian worldview. The money could be better used on charity, or investments, etc. Women show what their priorities really are by how they spend their money and time. Show me a woman’s bookshelf, and I’ll tell you how seriously she has thought about what it means to be a Christian in all areas of life. Instead of showing me your tattoos to demonstrate your “spirituality”, show me your apologetics books, to demonstrate your intellectual engagement. And tell me how you used that information to engage in conversations with educated non-Christians to answer their challenges to your faith. That way I’ll know that you use your money to train do hard things in order to have an influence for Christ in serious, practical, effective ways. A woman who can defend her faith and discuss Christianity with non-Christians is demonstrating her ability to raise Christian children in a secular society.

A family praying and reading the Bible
A family praying and reading the Bible

The goal of marriage is to serve God

Today, young people have been taught to follow their hearts, and to deny that there is any authority or practical wisdom that should govern their decisions. They always imagine themselves to be exempt from moral rules, statistics, cause and effect, etc. They think they know better than everyone else – even though they do almost no research on their own. Every adviser who tells them to study computer science instead of creative writing is wrong. Their same-age friends know more about what causes divorces than peer-reviewed research papers. And money should be spent on skydiving and zip-lining, regardless of what financial experts like Dave Ramsey might say.

A woman who has made many mistakes cannot fix those mistakes with words. Rationalizations, evasions, and blame-shifting do not work to show that there has been real repentance. The man can only assess whether grace has caused any real re-prioritization of goals by evaluating her outward actions over a long period of time. Furthermore, if a woman who has made mistakes attacks those who correct her from Bible’s teachings on chastity, stewardship, etc., then it’s a sign that there is no real repentance.

Choosing a wife wisely doesn’t mean that Christian men treat OTHER Christian women poorly. Christian men love all the Christian women. We care for them and support them. But when a man chooses a wife, he is choosing someone who will have more influence on his ability to serve God than anyone else. In my case, the goals for my marriage involve making a difference with apologetics in the church, having many children who will receive the educations and careers they need to have an influence, influencing government to promote Christian-friendly policies, charitable giving, mentoring young Christians, modeling a good marriage to others, and having a home that can serve to host discussions about issues that matter. These things are not free – they take careful planning and execution to achieve.

Lori’s advice is  intended for men who are serious about making their marriage produce a return for God. Men who are chaste themselves. Men who accept the Bible as an authority. Men who earned STEM degrees, instead of easy nonsense degrees that don’t lead to good careers. Men who earn 6-figure salaries, who buy houses for cash, and who are on track have a 7-figure net worth by age 50. Men who made good decisions cannot risk marrying someone who hasn’t prepared for marriage. The wrong woman in the home could ruin the man’s effort to produce a marriage that gives glory to God.

Not every man intends to achieve something for God with his marriage, but those who do need to choose a woman who has demonstrated ability at doing the job. For example, if the job requires marital fidelity, then chastity is a good indicator that the woman has the necessary self-control. If the job requires frugality, and practicality, then being debt-free, having a STEM degree, and having some private sector work experience are good indicators that she’s qualified for the role. Nothing valuable in life is ever been achieved by being lazy, wild and irresponsible. Serious Christian men look for wives who have applied themselves to difficult tasks that they didn’t feel like doing, who achieved success by remaining committed to the plan, in spite of their unhappy feelings and unmet desires.

We have a problem in the church such that we aren’t serious about teaching young people to develop marriage-ready character and to make serious plans for marriage. We are teaching them to follow their hearts, and that their feelings and desires are clues about God’s will for their happiness. We are teaching them to be uncomfortable with responsibilities, expectations and obligations to others. We are teaching them not to do their own research. We are teaching them not to make practical, wise plans. We are teaching them to ATTACK those who try to get them to be serious about doing what is likely to work. This approach is not working.

My own criteria for a wife are more demanding than Lori’s. My advice there is only for serious Christian men who want their marriage to serve God.