Written by Rachel Ramey
We’re on part 2 of a response to a blog post titled Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed. The original post was lengthy, covering a lot of ground, so I decided more than one post was needed in response. I’ve now “sketched it out,” and it looks like there will be seven parts, total. I’ll try to remember to come back and update this table of contents later with links.
So with that said, let’s get on with part two.
Appeal to Improper Authority
The first authority-related concern I have with Umstattd’s post is a fallacy known as an “appeal to improper authority.” This particular fallacy is a little bit subjective, because it isn’t always clear who is or isn’t an appropriate authority on a subject. Sometimes it’s concrete and obvious; other times not so much.
But in this case, we’re talking about a question of how best to carry out God’s instructions or God’s plan. That means any Bible-believing Christian should consider God the appropriate authority on the subject. Not our culture. Not what “worked” for someone else (in a completely different situation). Not even the counsel of elders, if it isn’t informed by Scripture in the first place. God’s Word is the authority on the subject.
(A secondary authority on this particular subject would also be those who have courted, although the most rational thing to do would be to consult those for whom courtship worked or, failing that, to consult the full spectrum of those embracing courtship.)
But God is not the authority to whom the author appeals as “evidence” for his position of how we should find spouses. (In fact, he essentially says that God is more-or-less silent on the subject.) Neither are those who successfully courted – or even those who successfully married following any method from within our current culture. Or even a long historical precedent. Who does he appeal to as his authorities?
“My grandmother grew up in a marginally Christian community. …And yet her community of friends all got married and then stayed married for decades and decades. So what on earth were they doing that worked so well? Over dinner, my grandmother shared her story about what dating was like back in the the 30s and 40s.”
His grandmother is the primary authority we see him appealing to. Now, it is wise for him to give heed to her counsel for him, as she’s an elder God placed in his life. But to use one woman’s experience as the authority for every Christian’s life choices is rather absurd.
If you consider it in broader terms, he’s appealing to the “majority experience” from one brief period of American history that isn’t now. No long-term precedent – just a few decades out of centuries of history. No breadth of precedent – just American pop culture. And no specifically current precedent.
“I don’t see Arranged Marriage taking off in Western Culture.”
It should be noted that arranged marriage is differentiated from courtship in the post; however, the author claims that most moral arguments for courtship are actually arguments for arranged marriage. The more relevant point here, though, is that the author is implying that popularity within the culture is a high priority. That is inherently not a biblical concept.
We aren’t told in Scripture that we have to buck trends purely for the sake of bucking trends, but we’re definitely not told that we should go along with what’s comfortable for the culture at large. In fact, the Scriptural precedent is for God’s people to be notably different from those around them. So whether or not a particular model is likely to “take off in our culture” is, frankly, irrelevant.
“Traditional Dating fits our culture like a glove.”
Again, we have an appeal to the culture at large. From a biblical perspective, this is a completely irrelevant point. Or potentially even a red flag alerting us that we should look more closely, because “culture at large” is not really known for being godly. (To be clear, I am not saying that something being comfortable to our culture necessarily means it’s unbiblical. I’m saying that something being comfortable to our culture definitely doesn’t prove that it’s biblical and it may be wise to dig deeper into anything the greater culture is embracing before we embrace it along with them.)
Polytheism fit Athenian culture like a glove, but that didn’t prompt Paul to preach polytheism there. Rather, he started with what was familiar to the Athenians and showed them a better way.
“Do what your grandparents did and go out on dates with lots of different people before going steady with any of them.” (bold added)
Here again we have an appeal to what some other fallible humans did as the basis for what we should do. Why these particular fallible humans? If this is all about appealing to someone whose methods worked, there are lots of other options. Some of us courted and it worked. Many people around the world had their marriages arranged and it worked. The point is, people are unreliable, and you can’t just rely on one person’s – or a few peoples’ – experiences as the whole basis for defining a system that should work for everyone.
Bottom line: the Bible says that we’re to be holy (1 Pe. 1:15-16; 2:9) – that is, set apart. “Fitting the culture” or doing something because “previous generations did it” or “it worked” are not biblical reasons.
Disregard/Disrespect for God-Ordained Authority
I was also very disappointed with the attitude and tone demonstrated toward parents throughout the article. The Bible does teach that parents have authority over their children – especially with regard to fathers and daughters. (More on that in a later installment.) But parents are treated with derision throughout the article – especially daddies who take the time and trouble to protect their daughters.
It is a bit ironic that while he laments the fact that early on, he rejected the counsel of elders in his own life in favor of the immature counsel of his peers, he strongly encourages readers to reject the counsel of the elders God has placed in their lives and given direct authority over them – namely, their parents. (I don’t know what the situation was with his own parents. They were never mentioned.) No attempt is made, either, to differentiate between the interaction of, say, a 30-year-old daughter with her father and a 16-year-old daughter with her father*. Meanwhile, it is automatically assumed that every parent in question is a complete control freak.
“Young people whose parents often maintain veto power on all of their decisions are then expected to make this most important decision without any experience in good decision making.”
To begin with, this comment – along with its implications in context – doesn’t even make sense. It isn’t really clear what he means by “veto power.” To my mind, parents having “veto power” means that young people are expected to make decisions on their own, and parents will only intervene if they believe their young people to be making egregious, life-changing mistakes. Like when you’re teaching your kids to drive: you have to let them do the driving, but if they’re about to drive off the road, you might have to momentarily grab the wheel. In that case, the “effect” portion of this “cause-and-effect” situation doesn’t follow.
Given the context, I don’t really think that’s what he’s saying. I don’t think he means “veto power” at all. I think he means the parents just make all of the decisions for their young people in the first place. Which I totally agree is foolishness. But in that case, the “effect” of the “cause-and-effect” situation here still doesn’t follow. Why? Because the young person then is not being “expected to make this…decision.” It’s being made for him.
So this whole argument simply doesn’t hold water.
More significantly, though, the tone here is concerning. Misleading terminology is used to imply that one type of parent is like a different type of parent. The very use of the term “veto power” suggests that parent who will grab the wheel to keep his child from running off the road. But then the situation described is actually that of a “helicopter parent” who can’t give his child any space to grow.
These are two very different things, and it is dishonoring to the body of Christ to accuse conscientious, caring, involved parents of being overbearing and harmful.
In his suggestions to young men, the author says that:
“If she says you need to talk to her dad first, just move on to the next girl. Don’t let the fact that some women have controlling fathers keep you from dating the girls with more normal families. There are a lot of fish in the sea and some dads are nicer than others. Remember that this man would have become your father-in-law, and controlling people tend to control everything they can.”
This is not exactly about attitudes toward our own fathers, but…WHOA. I think somebody needs to take a step back or a deep breath, or something. I could practically write a whole post just about this single paragraph.
First of all, it is not fair to a girl to measure her by her dad. Let’s just get that out of the way.
Second, it is really stretching things to say that expecting to talk to a young man before he takes your daughter off without any oversight is “controlling.” Have you read any news lately? Been within a mile of a local high school? It is a wise parent who will know the people his children are with. And especially when that parent is a father who is responsible for the safety of his daughter.
Daddies make sure they know and are comfortable with the men who are taking their daughters places because they love them, not because they’re control freaks.
Traditionally, it has been considered good manners to ask a girl’s parents for permission to take her on a date. Any man who is offended by this probably won’t pass muster. Let me be blunt: That’s not because dad’s controlling; it’s because the guy is a jerk.
Any girl who truly values herself will be thankful to have a loving father take a few minutes to chat with a guy who shows an interest in her and say, “He seems like a good guy. Have fun.”
Are there some fathers who are controlling? Undoubtedly. But the “dividing line” between controlling and not controlling is not wanting to know who the heck you are before you take his precious daughter off someplace.
“Being a parent does not make you a Pope for another adult.”
Um, no, obviously not, but again, parents have a responsibility to their children. Yes, even to their adult children. We may not all agree on the correct interpretation of what that responsibility is to our adult children, but taking responsibility does not equal playing personal Holy Spirit. The choice of wording here is arrogant, disrespectful, and offensive.
“Allow your daughters to say yes to first dates from Christian guys you don’t know.”
This is the author’s idea of (part of) how to not be controlling. Seriously?! So being unwilling to let some guy I don’t even know take my daughter out alone is being controlling? If that’s the case, I’ll wear that “controlling parent” badge with pleasure.
Any young man who finds it “controlling” that a girl’s parents want to know who he is before they let her go off with him either has a serious complex, or is up to no good. A well-adjusted young man who values a young lady will appreciate her parents’ concern for her honor and safety as demonstrated by their wanting to know him a little bit before they send the two young people off somewhere.
“Realize that many of their rules were created out of fear.”
Really? How does he know that about someone else’s household? Maybe they were. Maybe they weren’t. Maybe he’s merely assuming everyone’s rules are based on fear because that was his experience.
It is appallingly arrogant to presume to tell a young person you don’t even know what her parents did or why they did it. And has the extremely dangerous potential of setting up a rebellious young man or woman against perfectly sane, reasonable parents who have his best interests at heart.
“Share this post with your parents and talk to with them about why courtship is flawed and why you are going to start going out on dates.”
In other words, just flat-out refuse to submit to their authority. And if that doesn’t work, manipulate them:
“If all else fails, play the grandchildren card.”
*Mr. Umstattd has since posted a follow-up, where he clarifies that his original article was intended for an audience of single adults. I still disagree with his assumptions/conclusions regarding women who defer to their fathers, but the clarification is crucial, and the tone of the post is far more gracious/respectful.
Next: The Importance of Defining Terms - Part 3