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    Defining Terms

    April 23, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    [dropcap]W[/dropcap]e’re almost at the end here, folks. I must admit I wasn’t sure what solution Maken could offer to the protracted singleness that she believes is propped up by the modern approach to finding a mate {i.e., “dating”}. And the solution surprised me, and yet, by the time she was finished explaining herself, I have to admit that it made a great deal of sense.

    I spent some time this weekend questioning Si in regards to the last two chapters of Getting Serious About Getting Married. After all, Maken is a woman who seems to think she has figured out the effect of the culture of dating on men. I wanted a man’s opinion on whether or not she was right. As we talked, I realized that Maken uses some language in a way that can be confusing to someone who hasn’t actually read the book. So this post is all about laying the groundwork for a common vocabulary so that we can discuss the book without being distracted by semantics.

    Terminology and Concepts

    Limited/guarded access: When Maken refers to how things were done throughout much of history, she repeatedly uses the terms “limited access” or “guarded access” in reference to women. What she means is that a man was not able to go directly to a woman without going through an agent {which is actually the next term I will define}. This kept the power in the hands of the woman and her family. When we look at Genesis, there are three basic needs of a man that the woman is meeting. He is lonely {“alone”}, he doesn’t have a “helper suitable” for him, and there is a sexual/reproductive need. When the access to women is guarded, according to Maken, none of these needs is easily met for a man until he is married to a woman. Once upon a time a man could only have these needs met respectably when he became married, thus creating a culture that encouraged marriage.

    Agent: Maken starts by using the stories of the patriarchs in Genesis. Abraham used an agent when he sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac. Rebekah was under the protection of her father, who was the agent who arranged the terms of her marriage to Jacob. In the current day, Maken suggests that many women may still find that their own father can serve as an appropriate agent, providing the protection and direction needed to get them married. But women without fathers, or without Christian fathers, may find it helpful to seek out a godly father-figure to serve as their agent.

    Agency: When Maken speaks of enlisting agency she is making a broader sweep than she does with the term agent. Agent is usually a sole, male, father-figure type, or perhaps a trusted Christian couple. But agency can mean this and more. Agency can refer to getting a matchmaker, or even using online assistance such as or Also, agency does not necessarily offer the protection of an agent. If one were to employ impersonal, online agency, I believe Maken would suggest that she also find a real-life agent who would offer accountability, prayers, and protection.

    Scheduling order: We all agreed that dating could encourage marriage too soon or too late. The scheduling order prevents this. The agent assists the single woman in coming up with a reasonable schedule of events. This would include how many dates or interactions should occur before she decides to rule a person out, how long casual interactions should go on before a proposal occurs, and how long an engagement should last. Obviously, this may not be set in stone for every relationship, but it will definitely offer much guidance, and because the decision was made with the agent, there is accountability for the woman {and her suitor!} to keep focused on the goal of marriage.


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  • Reply Brandy April 23, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    I have heard that response, too, and it tends to baffle me when it comes from Christian families. The reason for this is that Proverbs really drives home the need to have access to wise council. Even if the father was influenced by feminism enough that he didn’t find it appropriate to give permission, he shouldn’t be abstaining from comment as well!

    I could go on, but then I would be beginning tomorrow’s post today! 🙂

  • Reply Elizabeth at A Biblical Home April 23, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    Interesting and very counter-cultural. Occasionally, I have been in conversations where the topic of men asking fathers for permission to marry their daughters comes up. The most common thing I hear 20-somethings say is, “My dad doesn’t really care for that. He says that I’m an adult so I need to make my own decisions.” As good as that sounds to modern ears, the guidance of a protective father/father figure can spare young women a lifetime of hurt.

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