Rev. Dick is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan.
Dating is the way, the truth, and the life of the ungodly. It is the sought-out Savior of many-a-youth too scared to go through adolescence alone. It is the Silver Cup from which many older lonely and unmarried folk long to drink in order to live a Life they fear has passed them by.
Believe me, dear Grace Life readers! Believe one who has been in the land of the pagans, believe a pastor and friend of all who would be the friends of Jesus—Dating is the Idol of as many-a-soul as there are Blue Devils in Huntington Public High Schools (my alma mater) across the land. Dating is their Way of solace, of fun, and to paradise. Dating is their something, their someOne giving meaning to life, their Truth setting them free. Dating is their life on Friday, the hope of their Monday.
Last article (cf. the April 15 issue of the Standard Bearer) we noted that there is at least one evidence of this heathenish dating thing amongst us. In allowing covenant youth to pair off in a romantic relationship before they have confessed their faith in Christ, we are, however unwittingly, encouraging them to make Dating their idol, and their relationship with each other the main Thing in their young life. Heathen in dating never confess faith in Christ. Rather, they confess that dating is their Christ. We in ours would kiss each other first, and kiss the Son later.
There are other evidences of the Monstrous heathen Dating amongst us—both her ways, and her droppings. There is, for example, the fact that much of our dating is casual—we meet at Burger King, think we have fallen in love, rendezvous next at the block party, and things go strolling and wandering along from there. Like the heathen, much of our dating is marked through and through by, and seems to have as its primary goal, fun and entertainment; to be sure, our stated goal may be marriage, but fun and entertainment mark many-a-way to many-an-altar. There is the multiple dating, the dating of half a dozen and mostly more till we finally settle on the one—this all, in many cases I fear, reflecting lack of purpose and wisdom, lack of God-centeredness and maturity in our dating. There are the broken hearts of the daters, the dateless, and the dated. And there is this sad fact: much of the dating among us is largely unsupervised, having very little to do with the Father and the families of the men and the maids.
Yours truly has suggested before that a reason we have learned the way of the heathen is that we have thought there is no theology behind, but only some unknown wonder involved (Prov. 30:18, 19) in the way of men and maids. “Best we let wonders be,” we have said.
But what has happened is that the Devil, who loves vacuums, “empty spaces” in our theology, the Devil who is doing his Devil best to undermine marriage and especially godly marriage and any godly way to godly marriage, has dropped heathen Dating into our laps. Without ten texts, or even one, with no biblical and Reformed theology to justify her presence, here she sits, and has spent many-a-night!
A main ally of the Devil, as usual, has been culture. We live in an age in which sinful man with his culture, with all its products, all its advancements, all its customs is increasingly showing man’s perverse and antichrist heart. Many of the products and advancements of culture we, of course, enjoy. We feast on delicacies, fly jets, buy computers, and are thankful for modern medicine—all as members of an advanced human culture. In the past, say before a hundred years ago, Christians may have been able, as well, to remain distinctively Christian while their maids and men were going about the way of marrying much the same way (in the formal sense of the word) as everyone else in society. This was because, historically, respect and honor have marked this way of men with maids. The parents even of ungodly men and maids were involved, and consulted, and gave their approval, or not. Men with maids would “court” only when ready, and for marriage. The “way” itself did not get people into trouble, but was followed to prevent trouble. It manifested some recognition, still, that the holy God is and ought to be the God and Lord of marriage and of marrying. It showed that in the culture there was still some regard for virtue and good order in this most important way of men with maids (cf. Canons III/IV, Article 4); even pagans were still listening to, guided by, some common … sense. Thus, even though all of the pagans in their way of marrying were wrongly motivated, licentious, and shameful despisers of God as they are in everything they do, yet Christians could be found courting in a way, outwardly, like the pagans, and it would not kill them.
But the culture, the same culture which now offers us its Drama and its Dancing, has progressed in the way only heathen cultures can to where we now have “Dating.” This is a relatively new product. In one way it is like an airplane, another product of the culture. But use of this airplane, this new Boeing, is perilous! It is filled with terrorists and bombs. And it is on auto-pilot bound only to certain destinations: Las Vegas, Hollywood, the fair towers of our marriages, or the ground. We have got, beloved readers, to bail out! And parents of future teens and young adults must make sure their children never get on!
A study of the history of the last hundred years or so shows this progression in the culture and the development of what we call “dating.” Because this is so important, I present to you, somewhat at length, some of the findings of sociologist/historian William D. Romanoski. Romanoski, in an essay entitled “Take Your Girlie to the Movies: Dating and Entertainment in Twentieth Century America,” makes these following observations about the beginnings and development of “dating” as we know it. Let us follow closely these words, and be discerning also of just how there has been a tremendous progress in the sinfulness of men with maids!
During the nineteenth century a young man had to secure an invitation to “call” on a young woman at her home. They might spend an evening sitting on the front porch sipping lemonade, singing songs around the parlor piano, or attending a community event. The young woman and her mother determined the acceptability of suitors, the length of the visit, proper topics of conversation and the amount of chaperonage. There was a small-town, rural orientation to the calling system that kept courtship securely within the bounds of the Victorian home and family….
The powerful forces of modernism transformed American life around the turn of this century. Vast population growth fueled by millions of immigrants, rapid industrialization and urbanization, the emergence of national transportation and communication systems, as well as the development of national cultural media—magazines, radio, and movies—all these created new opportunities and limitations that profoundly altered ideas and conventions of courtship in America.
Citing one Beth L. Bailey (who has written a book entitled From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth-Century America), Romanoski notes that “with the advent of these ‘forces’ of modernism, however, a ‘good time’ increasingly became identified with public places and commercial amusements.
“Especially for the young, the city’s amusements also represented and confirmed their integration into modern urban life.” And (citing author Kathy Piess) “public entertainment became ‘the embodiment of American urban culture, particularly its individualism, ideology of consumption, and affirmation of dating and courtship outside parental control.'”
About these origins of dating, Romanoski concludes, “while dating originated among the urban working class, it became a middle-class practice in the early years of the twentieth century. Between 1890 and the mid-1920’s, going out on a ‘date’ almost completely replaced the chaperoned visit. The watchful eye of the local neighborhood and community was replaced by the anonymity of public space, where young people met casually and had the freedom to explore intimacy and sexuality.”
Romanoski writes of the furtherance of the “dating culture” in America stating that by the mid-twentieth century
adolescence took the form of an age-segregated youth culture, which is in many ways a leisure-oriented microcosm of adult life. Existing largely in isolation and distinction from the adult world, adolescents spend most of their time with their peers. They have more leisure time and discretionary income than adults making them a prime demographic audience for entertainment; their separation from adults also makes them more susceptible to manipulation by the media. Young people are also relieved, to a great extent, from the responsibilities and decision making required of adults, allowing them to postpone making significant life decisions, from vocational choice to marriage partner. Increasingly throughout this century dating became disassociated from marriage and family, reflecting instead social status, competition, and popularity within the youth culture (italics mine, MD).
This is perhaps best illustrated by the idea of “going steady,” which became popular after World War II when, for the first time, women outnumbered men in the United States. Going steady offered greater security amid more intense competition and held out the promise of ‘popularity, social acceptance, and emotional security’ for young people during the tumult of adolescence.
Prior to the war, going steady meant something like getting engaged does today, when a couple announces their intentions of moving toward marriage. Beginning in the 1950’s, however, going steady might have little to do with getting married. Actually, few couples intended it as such but instead acted as if they were married while they went steady. The young couple exchanged signifying tokens (usually rings) and agreed not to date anyone else…. Going steady became the adolescent version of young children playing house: marriage without responsibility or commitment. But that left only leisure activities and sex as the focus of relationships. Not surprisingly, these became the center of courtship and youth culture. Consequently, the most popular dating partners (and therefore marriage partners) were those young people who were physically attractive and socially outgoing, even though these qualities did not necessarily translate into making one a responsible, committed, and loving spouse.
This sound familiar? Does any of this, a lot of this, characterize the way of our men with maids? Please take note! Note the progress of paganism in the way of men with maids so that the way is now this: focused on recreation, fun, amusements, entertainment; activities mostly outside the home and separated from the family; both the daters and the parents taking a back seat; the way of a youth subculture; something chaotic; something which shows no regard for virtue or good order or propriety, or God; something the Beatles might have imagined while they were imagining no heaven, no hell, no religion; something cheap, very cheap. Something you buy from the man wearing the trench coat on 43rd St. in Manhattan. Something we have bought.
The Way of Christ: The Way of Family!
We want to learn not the way of the heathen, but the way of the godly in our marrying, and in the marrying of our children. And we can learn that from Holy Writ.
What we have in Scripture guiding us in the way of godly marrying is what I would call “the Family principle.” We know this “Family principle,” being Reformed lovers of God’s covenant. Now I want to suggest to you that we apply the covenant Family truth more precisely and more consistently for the godly marrying of the covenant seed.
The godly way of man with maid is the way of family. The persons involved are family: brothers and sisters in the Lord. They are mature family members—those who have confessed Christ, are active and responsible members of a local congregation, and who across the board of their life show they have put away childish things and are not lifting up their soul unto snowmobiles. The way they are to be involved with one another is familial—promoting family, involving family, honoring family, knowing each other as members of the family. The goal is family. The blessings of the godly way of man with maid shall be the family blessings, the covenant blessings of God with … such families.
The first proof of the Family principle for our way of men with maids is the first Family and the first Marriage. In the first Family, and this first Marriage, there is, I believe, a pattern for lots of things about our families, our marriages, and also the way we are to get married.
The first Family is God’s own, and the first Marriage is the marriage the eternal and original Father proposes for His Son in the counsel of the Family Trinity. This proposal for marriage is no afterthought of God, but, being a divine proposal, is an eternal thought in an eternity which knows no “afters.” This proposal is, in fact, the main thought of God in His eternal decree that there be outside of Himself worlds, and horses, and people, and amoebae. For all the worlds, and all things in them, were created by, and for, the Son (Col. 1:16), that is, for the Son to come into these worlds, and to be Husband of husbands—the preeminent Husband-Savior.
The wife, we know, is very many people, but one Elect Bride, the church. With regard to the Father’s proposal that the Son take to Himself this wife the Son agrees—this is an altogether lovely proposal. The Son’s concurrence in this marriage arranged for Him is not because the Wife He woos will be a beauty. Truth is, when the Son finds her, she is altogether ugly, and dead in sins! But the Son loves the marriage proposal of God the Father, for Father and Son are One in Trinity, and when Son assumes to Himself the human nature He remains the Eternal One, and becomes the Holy Servant-Son of Jehovah in that human nature.
There may be, therefore, no other whom this Son pursues! There is, the truth must be told!, no other one besides the Elect Wife whom the Son delights to save! So when the Son comes, He comes not to do His own will, but He comes only and gladly to do the wedding-will of the Father who sent Him. He communicates constantly with the Father concerning this all-important marriage. He in our flesh, this perfect Son, though He be such a Son, antithesis of all merely human and awfully sinful sons, never seeks to go on His own, even for a night. He would never think, this Son, of telling Father, as He leaves the House, “Trust me,” and “Let me be on my own in my pursuit of the Bride.” Rather, this Son our Lord ever delights to know Father’s care, to seek Father’s guidance, to experience Father’s companionship on His way with His maid. Once only does He go out into the night to be alone. It is the night He hurls Himself into the black hole of the cross. But then, Son’s aloneness on that night is Father’s will too. In this marvelous way of atonement for sins, of the payment of the most costly Bride-Price, He gains the very Bride of His Father’s good pleasure.
The eternal Father and Son who is appointed Mediator, in the love and communion of the Divine Spirit Person, this first family … is wonderful. Their relationship and activity for the furtherance of the marriage of the Christ and His church … is wonderful. And wonderful it is that we in our homes, as fathers, sons, and family, and in the marrying of our own children, are to reflect that divine First Family for the cause of the covenant of God with us in the world. Our fatherhood and sonship, and family, and marrying, are not divine. But as image bearers of the divine, partakers of the divine nature (II Pet. 1:4), those whose marriages are revelations of the divine mystery of Christ and His church (Eph. 5:22-33), there is by the grace of God, and ought to be by grace working faith among us, a remarkable resemblance between our families and THE FAMILY. There ought also to be a noteworthy resemblance between God’s way of His Man with His Maid … and ours.
There is more in the Bible, much more, revealing this Family principle. That will have to wait till next time.
Meantime, since we at Grace Life want to learn the good way for good men and virtuous maids, let us search and study the Scriptures. Look up in the Bible any and all examples you can find of the marrying of God’s people, or of the marrying of sinners, or of God’s people gone astray who went astray, as well, in their marrying. Look up words like betrothal, bride, groom, and phrases like “take a wife,” or “giving a daughter.” Study the role Father plays in the protection of his daughters, and the marriage of his children.
Discuss how “family marrying” would actually take place, in a real, live situation … like yours.
Meditate upon that all important matter of kissing … the Son.
Start living according to what you are learning from the Bible about the godly way of a man with a maid.
For peace. For godliness. For family. For marrying in the land of the covenant.