I have read a number of articles on your website, and a consistent, recurring theme is that it is the man's role to assume the risk and initiate the relationship. Being raised by somewhat old-fashioned parents, I can see the wisdom in this advice. But I ask: Why not gather information first and make an informed decision? Surely having a clue about what kind of person she is and how likely she is to be interested is better than complete ignorance.
I will admit that this approach is partly driven by my personality and experiences. I'm not a very spontaneous, caution-to-the-wind type of guy. I tend to rely (perhaps too much) on facts and reasoning before I make any risky decisions. The message I read here unsettled me (in a good way) and I want to know why a more calculated approach is no good with respect to dating and marriage.
This is a good question. To the extent you have read the "recurring theme" you mentioned in my columns, I think I can help clarify what I meant in a way that addresses your concern.
If you're referring to my writing on Boundless, I have simply said that it is the man's role to show leadership, assume the risk and initiate the relationship between himself and a potential wife. It is not my position at all that "leadership" in a potential dating situation means that a man must initiate with a woman from a position of complete ignorance. In fact, I would say such a course of action is usually a bad idea. The issue is what kind of information you need before you ask a woman out. Your question mentions two categories: information about what kind of person the woman is and information about how likely she is to be interested in you.
Gathering that first category of information is not only OK, it's actually wise. As I've written several times in this space, before you ask a woman out, you should be looking for some level of confirmation that she is actually a believer in Christ and that she is seeking to grow in and live out the attributes that Scripture extolls as those of a godly woman and wife. You can read, among other passages, Proverbs 31, Titus 2 and 1 Peter 3 to get your head around what some of those attributes are.
Is she an active member of a Bible-believing church? If it's your church, how is she serving? What ministries does she participate in? What's her reputation with church leaders or other members you trust? All these categories of information can give you a good general idea of a woman's character, her theology, even her view of marriage. Observing or gathering some of this information before you initiate with a woman — in an appropriate, non-creepy way, obviously — is good and wise and will give you plenty of "data" on the question of whether to initiate.
You can also actually talk to her! The notion that to be "manly" in initiation a guy must initiate in one of the first few conversations he ever has with a woman is a silly — and slightly weird — caricature of sound advice on this topic. It is perfectly good and right for brothers and sisters to talk and get to know one another in church and ministry contexts, in group settings among friends and in any number of other social situations. Problems arise when too much particular attention paid or time spent together sends mixed messages or creates confusion, but it's obviously not the case that single brothers and sisters in Christ have to shun one another until somebody initiates.
Having said all that, trying to gather information in advance about whether a woman is interested in you is often a little more problematic. When a man finds out a woman is interested in him before he initiates (either directly from her or secondhand through someone else), the risk of rejection and hurt that he should initially be shouldering falls on her instead. That scenario just doesn't seem to gel with the other-centered, sacrificial, servant leadership and care of women to which Scripture seems to call husbands in particular and godly men in general.
You can look at Ephesians 5:22-33 (husbands called to self-sacrificial, Christ-like love for our wives), Luke 22:24-27 (Jesus modeling and characterizing His leadership as servant leadership), and 1 Timothy 5:2-4 (illustrating the way we are to relate to our sisters in Christ more broadly) for examples of that dynamic. John Piper and Wayne Grudem's essay in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is also good on this. They define biblical masculinity as, in part, a caring sense of responsibility "to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man's differing relationships." Under this view of biblical manhood, the dating context calls us to be out in front and providing information about our feelings rather than gathering intel about hers.
Bottom line, there's nothing wrong with a "calculated" approach in and of itself (though be advised: No level of "informed decision" will take all of the risk out of a relationship between two sinners). Just make sure you use Scripture as your guide when you're gathering data to calculate. I will pray for the Lord to give you wisdom and courage as you pursue a godly wife.
Copyright 2013 Scott Croft. All rights reserved.