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Monday, July 26, 2010

book review: What He Must Be... if he wants to marry my daughter

(a review of "What He Must Be" by Voddie Baucham Jr.)

This is a book that (frankly) every Christian parent with a child 15 years old or more should read. Most of us are familiar with the whole courtship vs. dating topic that has been (rightly) brought forth in recent years. But there is MUCH more to the issue than merely committing to some form of a courtship model.

What sort of a man are we, as fathers of daughters, looking for in a future son-in-law? Do our daughters know how to rightly evaluate any potential suitors? What does the Bible say about the character and qualities of potential husbands-to-be and sons-in-law? Or on the other side of the equation, are we raising sons that will make excellent husbands?
Thankfully, Voddie Baucham (a Reformed and baptistic pastor in south Texas) answers these and other questions, and he does so biblically and with pastoral insight and experience.

First, he uses quite a few pages to describe the problem (broken families, lack of fathers), along with statistics. For those who already recognize this really is an issue, these pages may go on more than needed. However, he rightly concludes that a father is indeed responsible to help find and evaluate any potential suitors for his daughter.

He then goes on to show the importance of marriage before he covers the requirements for any young man that might want to marry his daughter (or my daughters, for that matter). Those requirements are the central part of the book.

First, he must be a Christian. From page 67:
In many areas I am willing to give and take when it comes to young men to whom I will give my blessing in pursuit of my daughter’s hand. I am willing to abide a short man, a poor man, an unattractive man, even a man who is not a Texan (Lord, forgive me). However, I cannot give my consent to a man who is not a follower of Christ. That would be absolutely unthinkable.
He is referring to, of course, a real Christian, a true follower of Christ, not just someone who calls himself a Christian but has little or no “proof” of the claim or any fruit to show for it. He mentions some basic signs of being a true Christian (regenerate, repentant, reformed) in this chapter, and he addresses some other specific things in later chapters. But this point, by itself, stands alone. In no case, ever, should a Christian woman marry a man who is not a Christian, period. Anyone who tries to make exceptions to that or excuses as to why it doesn’t apply in a certain situation is in very serious error.

Second, he must be prepared to lead. Voddie discusses the attack by feminism on male headship, and what that means biblically. Most of it won’t be new to the mature biblical Christian, but it is a message that often needs repeating. A young man who wants a wife must be prepared and willing to lead her as required by Scripture.

Third, he must lead like Christ. Different men lead in different ways, but the leadership the Bible requires is not that of a drill sergeant, or a self-serving dictator, but a leader like Christ. He discusses how one of the ways to lead is to lead in love. The young man must love (verb, not emotion) the young lady, which means he will treat her in certain ways, including doing what is right for her. He then tells a story, which is worth repeating, because it is such a common situation, and many of us can probably relate to it personally. Starting on page 107, Pastor Baucham wrote:
A year ago I had a familiar conversation with a man I met in a church where I happened to be preaching. He was on staff full-time, married with three children. One of his children, a daughter, was engaged to a young man she met in college. As he told me the story of what he called “their fairy-tale courtship,” he beamed with pride.

His daughter had met the young man a year earlier. They were in a study group together and caught one another’s eye. The young man was very interested, so he asked her out on a date. She said no, but he persisted until eventually she conceded. Their first date was ideal. He brought flowers, opened her door, pulled out her chair, and even got her back to her dorm at a decent hour. She knew right away that this young man was special.

Over the next several months they saw more and more of each other. Eventually things got serious; so they decided it was time for him to meet her folks. She was a good Christian girl, so she did not bring boys home unless it was serious. The two of them drove up for Thanksgiving break, and the meeting went fabulously. Both mom and dad approved. This one was a keeper. He was a Christian, he was smart, good-looking, well-liked, and he treated their daughter like a queen.

When the two of them left the house, her parents had a feeling that this was “the one”. A few months later they got another call. The couple was coming back to the house again. Dad knew what was up. The young man was going to ask for her hand in marriage. And that’s exactly what he did. He said, “Sir, I love your daughter more than anything in this world, and I want to ask her to marry me. Will you give me your permission?” The father was thrilled. He gave his permission, the young man proposed, and the two of them were engaged.

If I’ve heard this story once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. However, I must admit that I do not view this story with the same level of enthusiasm as the fathers who tell it. Every time I hear this story, I can’t help but wonder why this scenario has come to be considered acceptable, let alone exceptional. I think this story is a tragedy.
Now I realize that last sentence may be shocking to some. A few paragraphs later, the author calls this scenario a travesty. The author explains himself, of course, though I’m not going to reproduce that explanation here. You may read it for yourself, or if you ask me in person, I’d be happy to elaborate. But he is right. That is not how a suitor and a father are to act during the time of courting, and to be blunt, the young woman should know better as well.

Later in the same chapter, the author discusses intimacy (not sexual) in marriage, and he shows that his understanding of marriage is biblical and careful. It looks like he is familiar with NANC materials – but whether or not that is the case, he is certainly familiar with his Bible! Included in that discussion is a warning about child-centered families, an all-too-common problem even in evangelical churches.

Fourth, he must be committed to children. This includes having children, investing in children, and supporting children. He concludes the chapter by saying “Wanted: Husbands and Fathers… Others Need Not Apply”.

Fifth, he must practice the four P’s (protector, provider, prophet, priest), and he expounds on each area of responsibility. In the last section, he mentions the importance of family worship.

The next chapter is called “Don’t Send a Woman to Do a Man’s Job”. He discusses protecting your daughter’s heart (including an important section on biblical purity), her focus, and her hope. He also does an excellent job of addressing singleness, how everyone is single for a season, and how that time of singleness is to be used.

Voddie then encourages men to be involved in young men’s lives: “If you can’t find one, build one.” It is basic Christian discipleship, and it is critical.

Finally, in the concluding chapter, the author superbly addresses the issue of “race”. Voddie is very big and very black, and he answers the question of if a white man were to be interested in his daughter. He may have been listening to Ken Ham, because he states that we are all of one race (human), and that so-called racism is an ugly sin. He goes on to defend that position biblically, and concludes:
Thus, limiting our children’s options based on ethnicity is ultimately an affront to the redemptive work of Christ.
The remaining sections of his concluding chapter address how feminism is emasculating men, the goal is the gospel, and how the souls of his grandchildren outweigh their complexion.

As I stated at the beginning, if you have older teenagers, I certain that you’d be blessed and helped by reading this book. Check it out from the library (if it is available), or better yet, buy your own copy, because some of you may need to go through this more than just a few times (because you have more than a few children)! But do more than read it – put it into practice, both now (in preparation) and later when the time comes when you have a son or daughter interested in marriage.

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