5 Paths to the Love of Your Life, Alex Chediak, ed.
This fascinating little book brings together five different authors to opine about the best and most Biblical way to go about finding and getting hitched to that significant other. Now, I've found God's best wife for me and have no personal need for this book; but I'm a pastor and a father, so it was extremely helpful in leading me to give more intelligent counsel and better lead my children. Here's my take on each of the five paths:
- The countercultural path (Lauren Winner) - "the real issue is not determine a correct dating method but instead to live entire lives-including dating relationships-in obedience and devotion to Christ." Sounds pretty good, but I think Winner's advice falls flat, especially in Biblical and theological depth and accuracy. She doesn't deal much with the differences between men and women and doesn't deal too much with accountability to authority (church and/or family). But...she does have some good things to say for those who choose to date.
- The courtship path (Doug Wilson) - I should confess I haven't read many (any) of the recent spat of books on courtship, though I probably should. Despite not reading much on the topic, I think my predisipostion tends toward some form of courtship. Wilson does an outstanding job setting forth the Biblical pattern of the father's authority and responsibility in the daughter's life as well as working out practically how a courtship might proceed to Christ's glory. I also appreciated that Wilson recognizes the potential downfalls of courting ("...the courtship model means that we have six idiots involved instead of two.")
- The guided path (Rick Holland) - Holland sets forth ten "principles" to guide decisions about dating relationships, principles like the character principle ("being the right person more than finding the right person") and the common ground principle ("consider only another Christian for a romantic relationship")...hey! All his principle start with "c". He must be a preacher. Anyway, Holland does a very fine job shaping a Biblical practice of dating. If folks choose to date, here is some really good ways to form and refine your thinking and living.
- The betrothal path (Jonathan Lindvall) - This was, by far, the most disappointing chapter, for a couple reasons: first, Lindvall never exactly shows what betrothal looks like (although it has to do with an "irrevocable" agreement to get married, somehow being decided by the parents with some input from the kiddos). Second, Lindvall's arguments for betrothal are quite flat: his appeals to Old Testament Scripture read quite a bit into the text. And, his theological argument is lacking; it goes like this: (1) Christ and His church are the divine pattern for marriage. (2) The church is, currently, betrothed to Christ but not yet married. (3) Therefore, betrothal must be God's will for romantic relationships. The problem with this is that it fails to take into account the reality that we are, right now, in union with Christ; I am married to Christ right now, but not as fully as I will be at the last day. This is what theologians call the "already and not yet." I don't believe betrothal can be argued against (that is, I don't think we can prove it's unbiblical), but Mr. Lindvall certainly didn't convince me that it could be argued for.
- The purposeful path (Jeramy & Jerusha Clark) - If the betrothal chapter was the most disappointing, this was the second-most disappointing. The Clark's basic take is this: Christians can date in a healthy and appropriate way. But what makes this chapter different from the 3rd is the greater freedom and looseness in standards. The purposeful path doesn't take too seriously the role of the young woman's father or the harm that can come from pursuing romantic relationships before one is ready for marriage. If folks are going to choose dating as a path toward marriage, I'd much prefer they go with Mr. Holland's advice over the Clark's.
In the end, it is quite difficult, if not impossible, to forcefully argue that God has revealed one and only one path toward marriage. Therefore, some grace needs to be practiced in the church as folks choose different paths. But this grace doesn't mean everyone gets to go their own way (contra Fleetwood Mac) without me raising a stink. There are Biblical principles we must submit to, principles which necessarily mean the modern method of dating, hooking up, breaking up is out of the question. What to do? Know the principles and decide for you and your household how you will proceed in this great life endeavor. Involve your pastor and elders in the decision and let them know what you decide so they can pray for you and shepherd you well in the process.
I would recommend this book to young folks and parents - as much thinking and praying needs to go into the decision about how you are going to find the "love of your life" as who that love is. Parents, you need to work this out in your minds well before it becomes an issue in your children's lives. That way, you'll be able to teach them over the course of years how they should seek a spouse and you'll be able to pray consistenly for them.
p.s. - I thought I would do a bunch of reviews, but this one ran long. Next time, I suppose.