Book Review: Her Hand in Marriage

her-hands-in-marriage-doug-wilsonThere’s no one like Doug Wilson for catching foxes, lighting firebrands, and burning down egalitarian cornfields. And he always makes it look like fun.

In Her Hand in Marriage, Wilson sets forth a case for courtship that is at once biblical, cogent, and (dare I say it?) entertaining. Yes, entertaining. I do not mean easy or fluffy or flippant – this book is no joke – but as with most of Wilson’s writing, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself, whatever the subject matter may be. He’s just that good.

Modern recreational dating, argues Wilson, “can safely be considered as bankrupt.” It has broken down, proven itself destructive rather than constructive, and highlighted our need for a more biblical way of doing things:

Apart from biblical dating or courting, there are many destructive consequences – emotional, sexual, and spiritual. But if a young man seeks to initiate a relationship, and takes full responsibility for the relationship under the woman’s father, there is scriptural accountability and protection. It is the purpose of this book to define, defend, and describe how biblical dating or courtship works.

And a most excellent defense it is, however short. Wilson covers an astonishingly broad range of topics in only ninety pages. The book is divided into five chapters: the first addresses the authority of parents; the second and third deal with the preparation of sons and daughters; the fourth and fifth deal with the culmination and details of courtship. There’s also an appendix entitled “The Garden”, which beautifully captures the thrust of Wilson’s case in parable form.

Of course (and as my Mom noted in her review), we’re told from the get-go that there must be a distinction between principals and methods:

Because our contemporary practice of recreational dating has failed so miserably, many Christians are hungry for alternative methods. ‘Just tell us what to do!’ In this arena, as elsewhere, the Christian life is approached as though it were a paint-by-numbers kit. But nowhere is this kind of ‘connect the dots’ thinking better calculated to bring disaster than in the realm of courtship. We are men and women with sons and daughters, not social engineers playing with interchangeable, interconnecting tinker toys. This simplistic but destructive mentality is revealed in questions like, ‘How man times must a young man come over before the young girl’s father should allow him to sit next next to her at the dinner table?’ The author of this small book frankly confesses that the answer is none of his business, and that he doesn’t really care. Seek to understand principle, and appropriate methods will follow.

I commend this book to you as a practical, scriptural, and just downright sane handling of a tricky and often misunderstood subject. On a related note, if you can get your hands on a copy of R.F. Capon’s Bed and Board, it’s the perfect companion read.

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6 thoughts on “Book Review: Her Hand in Marriage”

  1. “There’s no one like Doug Wilson for catching foxes, lighting firebrands, and burning down egalitarian cornfields. And he always makes it look like fun.” You must be following in his footsteps. Sounds like the way you write, Corey. Such a great review! I couldn’t agree more!

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