Sunday, September 16, 2007

Christ, His Church and Modern Dating [Andrea] 

I've read a lot on courtship in the past. Obviously, once I married my interest in it waned. The subject has been brought back to my mind by discussions with parents whose children are of marriage age, and by this article at the web site Domestic Felicity LAF (Ladies Against Feminism) linked to:

While I agree with everything in this article, the author doesn't deal with the argument I feel is really compelling. The author admits there is a lot she could discuss on the matter, so I don't mean to imply she isn't aware of the argument. Having said this, the fundamental reason for my rejection of the modern view of dating is that the Bible uses marriage as a picture of Christ and His church. I've read in more than one article on marriage that the state of our marriage is about more than being happier, but the bigger implication is that we tell a lie about the gospel when the husband fails to live sacrificially in terms of his wife and when the wife fails to submit to the authority of her husband. We undermine our witness to the world when we live our marriages outside of the gospel.

As the church is preparing for the great wedding feast day, so a young woman ought to be adorning herself for her great wedding day. She ought to be cultivating the gifts God has given her trusting those gifts were given to her for a man God is preparing for her. The modern practice of dating, of giving oneself intimately (either emotionally or physically) to several partners before settling for the boring reality of monogomy, seems a horrible defilement of the picture the Bible paints of Christ and His church.

As Christ is preparing a place for his bride, so a young man ought to be busy preparing for manhood and the responsibilities of providing for a family, not out proving his virility in partying and conquests.

Domestic Felicity does a great job of dealing with the practical reasons for rejecting the modern view of dating, but I believe all those reasons can be handled in one fell swoop by embracing the Biblical picture of marriage. When we handle relationships lightly and with self-centered motivations, we are handling the gospel with profane hands. We bring idols into the temple.

We do our young people a disservice by failing to prepare them for the realities of life before they get to adulthood. Do we believe that the God who created us knows what will bring true happiness and fulfillment, or do we think we know better? Is happiness found in pursuing our own lusts and desires, or in striving to be what God has created us to be? Are we teaching our children to bear witness to the gospel in word and deed always, or do we believe that stuff is a drag and they ought to be pursuing fleshly pleasures for right now? Do we want to be like the nations around us who "get" to follow other gods?

I think Christians who understand God's sovereignty have even less excuse. If we believe that God has prepared our spouse for us, how can we engage in intimacy with someone we know we could never marry, either because they are an unbeliever, or because we know we are not suited for one another? How can we give to another what only belongs to our spouse?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Movie Review: The 400 Blows 

We watched The 400 Blows last night, by Francois Truffaut. It's a French film in subtitles, made in 1959. It's about a 13-year-old boy, Antoine Doinel who seems to live a relatively normal life in Paris, but is constantly getting into trouble. He gets terrible grades at school, he is a liar and he steals. It's clear from the beginning that his parents are self-absorbed, and their parental discipline leaves a lot to be desired. They smack him if he does something really bad, but mostly just ignore him. He starts to run away from home to avoid trouble, and with the help of another delinquent friend begins to engage in more serious crime. The title comes from a French expression meaning "raising hell", and this is just what the boy starts to do.

The movie is a brilliant portrayal of how a person would grow up not just with the fact of nobody caring much at all about him, but with the awareness that this was so. Antoine has an interview with a psychologist in a juvenile detention facility where we learn the circumstances of his early childhood that reveal just this awareness. Nobody wants Antoine around and he knows it. His parents are just as amoral as he is. One might be tempted to say he needs examples of right and wrong. But he actually has that, from his authoritarian schoolteachers. What he needs is love.

My wife commented after the film, "There's a huge obvious hole in the film- God." Looking at it from our Christian perspective, it's clear that the boy's real problem is that he as absolutely no sense of why he is even alive, or why it matters at all what he does. The only thing his parents want from him is to not be bothered. Early in the film, the mother discusses how awful it is that some other woman she knows keeps having babies- "Like rabbits. Disgusting." And then they discuss how to get rid of Antoine for the summer- sending him away to camp is better than having him around the place doing nothing.

And so Antoine acts in whatever way suits him at the time, whatever will get what he wants and avoids trouble. So he lies, forges notes from his parents and makes up stories about why he wasn't in school. The only thing motivating him are brief, little pleasures. He goes out to the movies with his parents and has a wonderful evening in the bright lights of the city, laughing about the movie. One of the most touching scenes is when he is being driven away in a police truck to the detention facility, through the city, and he looks out at the bright lights and cries.

The 400 Blows does a beautiful job of portraying this hopelessness and pointlessness of a self-centered life, as well as showing the damage this kind of life does to those around us. Antoine hurt everyone around him, but everyone in Antoine's life had only ever hurt him too. How could he be expected to act out of love for others when he'd never seen it himself? How could he even know what that kind of behavior would look like?

This is why there is no hope outside of Christ. Christ is the great example for all of us what truly sacrificial love looks like. We can look at his example and learn how we ought to treat others. He is much more than just an example of course- His satisfaction for sins, besides being a wonderful example, also reconciles us to God giving us the ability to actually begin to change. And then, following His example, we can begin to live lives centered on love for others, lives with purpose.

The 400 Blows is not a light, fun, entertaining movie. It's a bleak portrayal of nihilism and despair. But it's masterfully done, a forceful picture of life without purpose, life without God.


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