I’ve been jotting down a good number of notes for this book review / summary, so it looks like this will be a two-part series.
I recently read With One Voice: Singleness, Dating & Marriage to the Glory of God by Alex Chediak (with Marni Chediak), seeking a biblical perspective on singleness and dating that does not follow directly with theological dating frameworks of Joshua Harris or Cloud/Townsend. I first came across Chediak’s book last year when I found my way onto his website and found reviews and a good summary of it. I suppose I have been planning on reading it soon, but the plethora of books on Christian dating eclipsed this less popular work by a less popular writer.As I have previously mentioned, Alex Chediak was an apprentice at The Bethlehem Institute under Pastors John Piper and Tom Steller. The Bethlehem Institute is the seminary-level training program of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN. Alex is currently an Associate Professor of Engineering at California Baptist University, so it seems that he is pursuing his ministry and calling in a non-vocational role while earning a living as a professor of a non-theological subject.What drew me to buy this book was first because of Chediak’s credentials as an apprentice under Piper, and further, the book’s endorsements made it very reputable (the endorsement at the top of the front cover is from none other than Al Mohler!). With all this in mind, I was hoping that this would bring a new perspective to the topic of singleness and courtship from a biblical (and likely a Reformed Baptist) perspective.When the book arrived, I was somewhat disappointed at its large font size which basically averages to about 6 words per line in its overt Verdana-like font type. Add to that, the title page font and the number and titles at the beginning of each chapter are in a weird looking thin, faded font that made it look really out of place. In short, the design of the body of this book did not match its simple and attractive cover, and this short 150-page book should really be even shorter consider its use of a large, modern font. I certainly was hoping for a longer explanation of Chediak’s insights into relationships between Christians, but I felt somewhat shafted for what I paid for it.
Tracking the Changes
With One Voice starts off in the opening chapter with a good historical outline of how dating and courtship have changed over the years, which is titled “Tracking the Changes“. Chediak explains in detail about the generational differences between us and our parents, and how these changes have molded our view of the process of courtship. He mentions a good number of statistics that should make us wonder why things have become the way are now, including today’s higher average age of marriage, the over 50% divorce rate, and high education levels, noting that “trends set in motion even before the 1950s [that] shed light on today’s situation” (15).Chediak goes on to explain the customs for romantic interactions that were the traditional norm at the beginning of the 19th century that centered around the sphere of the family and the “calling” system in which the woman clearly knows she is being “called” upon by the man who is interested in pursuing her. In the 1920s, Chediak, explains that romantic interactions shifted from the private to the public arena, and further in recent times, our generation has given rise to the sexual revolution “that [does] not presuppose such sexual convictions, and had easy access to contraceptives” (17).Additional developments in the socio-economic trend in America is explained for its significance in shaping our society’s current accepted norm of marriage, including the value put on individualism, the uprising of delayed adolescence and subsequent delayed marriage and declining child birth rates. Although the opening chapter seemed somewhat boring, it was a good primer to be reminded of the cultural, social and economic changes in modern western civilization that has come to shape how we do dating and courtship. While it was a lot of history and statistics that I had previously read in my undergrad or just in the news, but it was certainly beneficial, helpful and insightful to have this research summarized in one chapter and explained in a way that has the biblical view of marriage as the goal of dating/courtship. It is good to know that the way I go about dating and courtship did not just come out of a vacum.
The Normality of Marriage
Chapters 2 through 4 were the typical chapters that should be found in any contemporary book on Christian dating and courtship, so in general, I did not learn anything new here. Chapter 2 answered popular objections to marriage some young people would have and explained the normality of marriage. Chediak concedes that those who accept that marriage is the norm for Christian adults “will want to find someone we want to marry, and this gives purpose and direction to our romantic interests” (52). “…as we give emphasis to growing in the grace of God (becoming), we trust God for our active finding of a spouse in His timing” (53).
Masculinity and Femininity
In Chapter 3 on “Masculinity and Femininity“, Alex explains biblical manhood and womanhood in clear biblical principles and simple practical terms. He defines biblical masculinity as containing 5 aspects, borrowing from the work of Douglas Wilson and Bill Mouser: 1) a lord exercising dominion, 2) a husband who develops fruitfulness through careful stewardship, 3) a savior who seeks to give himself for others, 4) a sage who grows in wisdom, and 5) as a glory-bearer who reflects the glory of God. Quoted is Wilson’s definition of masculinity, “the collection of all those characteristics which flow from delighting in and sacrificing bodily strength for goodness.” What stood out in Chediak’s explanation of biblical manhood is his emphasis that “robust masculinity will depend first on his relationship with God.” I whole-heartedly agree.Praise for the Proverbs 31 WomanSimilar to his description of biblical manhood, Chediak describes biblical womanhood in terms of the Proverbs 31 traits. A woman is to be hospitable, enhancing and beautifying the life of others. She is to be ingenious, seeking to make things lovely in a cheerful, warm manner. She is to be hardworking, disciplining her labors to do the most good in this world with the gifts, strengths, and passions God has given her. Further, she should be wise, considering her speech and using the power of her tongue to give a blessing. Lastly, a woman of God must also be secure, confidently delighting in God’s provision for her needs as He deems best, knowing that God’s purposes are far more limitless than she can imagine. Herein, Chediak’s thorough description of the Proverbs 31 woman is a timely reminder to all Christian women to seek to be more Christ-like in a postmodern culture that attracts them to do otherwise.In addition to the thorough Proverbs description of womanhood, Chediak further clarifies woman with 3 terms of disposition. For the godly woman, the affirming disposition is one that praises that which is praiseworthy in others. A receiving disposition is one that accepts the strength and leadership offered by worthy men. A step that goes beyond receiving, the nurturing disposition in a godly woman causes strength and leadership from worthy men to be enhanced. And similar to his statement on biblical manhood, Chediak exhorts that robust femininity will depend first on a woman’s relationship with God.All this together sums up a biblical womanhood paradigm that is full-orbed and centered on complementing the godly man in his calling and ministry. I have to admit that it looks like we are all imperfect in relation to these high, biblical standards. I can certainly see where I need improvement to fulfill my role as a godly man and look forward to encouraging some sisters in Christ of areas where they can work on to be more prepared for marriage, where one cannot be under-prepped for the union of two becoming one.(Conclusion of this review is here)