This is the conclusion of my review / summary of Alex Chediak’s book, “With One Voice”. (Part 1 is here) Note: this is quite an extended post since it’s a transcription of my own notes of the book)
Leading and Submitting
The fourth chapter of With One Voice further describes masculinity and femininity for Christians as the primary roles of leading for the man and submitting for the woman. As with any modern Christian book on dating, I thought this was a necessary chapter (albeit a repeat from all that I have read about the topic) because many Christians and most unbelievers have a marred view of leadership and submission due the noetic effects of sin. When you bring this up in church or in any non-church setting, telling woman that they should “submit” to their husbands is a taboo topic — and even where it is not taboo, it is still frowned upon or eye-brow raising. Nevertheless, leadership and submission is not contradictory no matter how much our society dislikes it; it is biblical and that is exactly what Chediak contends.The author concedes that “mature masculinity is neither chauvinistic nor passive“, and thus these two perversions of biblical manhood are explained for their inconsistencies and practical implications. Passivity is defined as “where a guy simply gives a woman what she wants when she wants it, and fails to take initiative or assert himself so as not to be an imposition” (74); it is the bigger problem of the two in Western culture, and consequently much harder to detect. Male chauvinism is defined as “he [who] forces his will upon others by sheer, unbridled strength” (76) and as such is easier to detect than passivity. It is an outright visible problem where many woman submit to such abuse because “they want to be loved, but have no positive standard as to how a man should treat them” (77).Mature femininity, on the other hand, is neither obsequious nor domineering. It is not about the wife telling her husband whatever he wants to hear and doing whatever he asks her to do; it does not mean that she cannot strongly disagree with her husband on occasion nor does it “deny or exclude intelligence, rationality, and an ability to make a convincing argument” (79). “What a godly wife aims for… is an attitude that, while affirming his leadership, seeks to sharpen it.” Furthermore, the domineering women desire to rule over her husband and men around her only grieve themselves for emasculating the men in their lives. Biblical womanhood, hence, must not usurp the role ordained for her in Scripture.In the course of this chapter, Chediak also tries to answer some practical questions. What does this mean for an unmarried man and woman in a courtship situation? How about a casual friendship with a fellow Christian at church, or perhaps with a coworker. Whatever the situation, men ought biblically to be responsibly and tenderly leading women, while women ought biblically be joyfully affirming the leadership of godly men. Such development of mature masculinity and femininity must be nurtured and encouraged within the family, church and workplace. And while it is true that an unmarried woman owe not submission to a man she is not married to, it would do her most benefit to encourage the guys around her to become worthier of receiving submission. For men, the opposite should be done: it would most benefit him to encourage the ladies around him to become worthier of leadership by demonstrating the sacrificial leadership that he will display as a husband.
I particularly found chapter 5 helpful for the single Christian men and women, as Chediak outlines both the objective and subjective criteria we ought to have in finding a spouse, and further, that any over-emphasis on the objective or the subjective is unhealthy. The objective criteria for a wife or a husband requires that they both be 1) a Christian (2 Cor 6:14-18; 1 Kings 11:1-8), and 2) that they evidence some degree of maturity. While meeting the objective criteria is fairly straight forward and almost black and white, Chediak reminds us that the subjective criteria prove to be equally important.Now I should say, the subjective criteria Chediak describes are somewhat pretty obvious. 1) You should be attracted to each other, 2) that you share intellectual synergy, and 3) you enjoy each other’s company. While these are pretty much no-brainers, it may very well be the subjective criterion which many wrestle long nights in their minds with.To conclude the chapter on choosing a spouse wisely, I was reminded of dangers that singles would face in the premarital relationship process. This includes cultural differences (which are often underestimated), women’s attire (and the need for modesty in today’s oversexed media-driven society), the uneven pace of the relationship (where men tend to value that which is attained with great effort), failing to consider the whole person (considering exclusively only objective or subjective criteria), and lastly, getting hung up on the past (overly considering one’s past sins). The question at the end of the chapter I found to be a convicting query that should straighten us up in weighing all these criterion: “Is this potential romantic partner encouraging or discouraging Christian growth in the life of the other?”
The last chapter proved to be the climax of this short book, as it provided a clear delineation of the 4 stages of premarital relationships. I have never seen the progression of a relationship so clearly defined, and when I consider the dating relationships of various people I know, I am forced to wonder if some have stepped out of the boundaries into certain dating behavior that should be kept for the covenant of marriage.The first stage Chediak that Chediak calls “Friendship and Initiation” is the foundation for everything that follows. Here in this initial friendship stage, “men and women should seek to enjoy being in the company of one another, without any sense of exclusivity” (112) or romantic interactions, but simply learning about each other’s pursuits, family life and values. The emphasis is on our individuality, all the while nurturing it in the community of other believers. At this stage, any romantic inclinations should be a source of prayer and the seeking of advice from more mature Christians about the quality of the other person.At this foundational stage, Chediak makes a fairly bold statement saying that if both individuals are not of an age that they could marry (15-18yrs) in the foreseeable future, “the relationship should not extend beyond this initial stage of friendship” (114). In a two-page long paragraph, we are reminded that marriage equals adulthood, and thus, if you are not there yet, you really ought to save yourself from the heartache of proceeding further and just develop the friendship without romantic attachments.The second stage, then, is “the beginnings of romantic involvement” where a man has begun building a friendship with a woman who has qualities of a good wife, and is ready to lead the relationship to the next stage with guidance from his parents and/or his church community. Chediak describes this stage differentially from simply “friendship”, in that it should be exclusive (neither person will be romantically involved or considering romantic involvement with others), marriage-oriented (each is actively evaluating the other as a potential), and principled (each remains God-focused, joyfully obedient to His Word, commitment to the interest of the other, commitment to the local church, and the sacredness of sex).Thoughtful reminders about overt intimacy are included here, and Chediak rightly warns that at this stage, conversations should not provoke unnecessarily strong, purely emotional responses on her part — for this is the stage when the two are doing serious, thoughtful and objective evaluation of each other (not marriage proposal!). I can certainly remember a time when I had concluded this preliminary evaluation stage with my own conclusions about the other person, when it was clearly too, too early to do so; and from my personal experience I warn others to be very careful as they proceed in this second stage. As Chediak exclaims, this is not the time for significant intimacy — it is the stage for figuring out if there is a desire for get more serious. Chediak warns that it would be dangerous here to “make the other person an immediate confidant in deeply personal, emotional matters” (124) or pray intimately / excessively, though it all certainly depends on the emotional vulnerability levels of each person. “Emotional and physical intimacy should not be established yet. […] Now is the time to start drawing lines of accountability” (125).The third stage is simply the “later stages of a romantic relationship“, as it is the time for the guy to start communicating his interest to move closer toward marriage and not away from it — the time to tell her that you are getting more serious and start discussing certain issues like that of the spiritual, theological, practical family goals, and personal dreams and ambitions. An increasing one-on-one time, Chediak concedes, is becomes appropriate here; however, the author again warns excessive private can breed unhelpful premature, intimacy and that all prayer together should not communicate that you are making decisions together as a couple (such is for engaged and married couples!)(129).At this stage, Chediak further says that “brother/sister displays of affection are not unlawful but may not be wise” due to the emotional or sexual vulnerabilities of each person, and therefore, the need for godly mentors to keep the couple accountable physically and emotionally pure are necessary. Herein, premarital accountability questions should be asked: “What kind of time frame are we talking about here? Where is this thing going?” If either party does not think (s)he will be able to marry the other, it would be helpful in terminating the relationship and not delaying the inevitable. Dragging it on for fear of hurting the other’s feelings is itself hurtful and dishonoring (128). I honestly believe that it is upon this stage that many couples I know have a hard time stepping out of, towards engagement. Many I know have started dating without being prepared for marriage within 18-24 months, and thus, once they get stuck at this stage, and the relationship has plateaued without leadership on the man to move the relationship forward towards a proposal. Couples here are so used to being with each other, that though they have realized they are not exactly what (s)wants in a spouse, both are in fear of breaking the other’s heart and wasting so much time spent together. Here, I pray that we would all have the phileo-love to humbly and maturely part ways while still staying friends as much as possible. The question we should be asking ourselves here is, “Does this seem like the person God has brought into my life to marry?” — and not, “Might there be someone better for me?” (131).
The last stage of the premarital relationship is what Chediak calls “leaving and cleaving“, which considers each person’s willingness to leave their families emotionally and financially, as well as leaving behind the social and career aspects of single life. Extra consideration should be put on those outlined in David Powlison and John Yenchko’s booklet “Pre-Engagement: 5 Questions to Ask” (P&R, 2000), including whether there is proper alignment with each other on matters of Christian faith, and more practically, the positions of regarding career, time, money, geography, etc. All the practical and theological pre-wedding issues should be dealt with in advance before marriage, for it is far better to struggle towards an agreement now than later.
While “With One Voice” is a short volume, it makes up for this with a very concise, albeit, compact explanation about how to glorify God in one’s singleness, dating life, and even married life. Alex Chediak has written a very practical framework for Christians to consider using in their own relationships with the opposite gender, though I am sure there are many out there who think his descriptors of the 4 stages of premarital relationships too strict and boxed in. Nevertheless, I heartily recommend this book to all who seek a concise, biblical perspective on Christian dating. This book won’t tell you who to date or marry, but it certainly describes principles to follow that come out of God’s inerrant Word. I confess that I myself find that those stages are not necessarily mutually exclusive, though I am being convinced that there could be much emotional benefit on the long run and less heartache in the short run if we could be more diligent in adhering to the boundaries that God has set for us. Any boundary is hard to stick with due to original sin and our sinful nature, but through the Cross of Christ we can succeed in glorifying God in our relationships. Trusting God to work our out relationships and following the biblical principles of manhood and woman He has set out for us, it is only a matter of time that you and your two will magnify the Lord with one voice. “No matter where you’ve been yesterday, seek Him for your tomorrow.”