Legalism and Game.

I grew up in a legalistic Church. Think Amish with cars. The rulebook for how to operate in this “fellowship” wordwise was somewhere in the vicinity of Atlas Shrugged. The elders had met over the years and decided upon the propriety of everything from bicycles to how to best hold up your pants and whether photography was “the debil”. Higher education was frowned upon and there was no doubt when the wifely submission verses came up they were NOT glossed over. I’ve really put a lot of my life into realizing what was wrong with all of this. While the rules would always be justified and many made a lot of sense they are reactionary. Worship songs were sung at Alvin and the Chipmunks recording speed in a capella because over 100 years prior people had danced to their singing. Plain was the watchword. They needed a preformatted answer to EVERY situation and the “right” answer could very easily be right because it was the opposite of what everyone else was doing. In short, they reacted to EVERYTHING. (I never joined that church to the dismay of many parents whose sons and daughters looked up to me).

It dawns on me that strict adherence to Game can be very similar. I’ve been reading Dalrock for a couple of years now and seen the pro and anti game arguments and have had something like a pragmatic ambivalence. I’ve been chided for making game-like or even white knight type correlations between a husbands good behavior and a positive outcome on the marriage front and I am better seeing why that is happening. My faith can easily be regarded as determinism, that if you follow the rules that nothing bad will happen. I know better. Tight game AND/OR epic feats of white knightery do not automatically result in a good marriage (quite the contrary); as I have stated even perfect obedience to God is often insufficient to keep a relationship together (Jesus and Judas). Here is the rub as I see it, having an understanding of hypergamy and the basic understanding of human nature is a useful tool as is having all of the verses which tell us to love our wives as Christ loves the Church memorized. The application of those tools is a field where many problems arise.

I suggest that game and white knightery are two sides of the same reactionary coin. They are both the feeble efforts of men trying to take control of an uncontrollable situation. The white knight supposes that he has a Godly blueprint for success with the opposite gender and that all he needs to do is more zealously apply himself to make the system work, following the rules and pressing harder will surely reap success. The gamer supposes that he understands the flesh nature of women and goes about trying to work it to his advantage and like the cocaine addicted monkey he thinks that as long as he keeps pressing the “right” button he will be assured game success. Both of these positions are in an orbit around women, not as it should be centering on God. We seek a rulebook like those plain folks of my youth to evade the facts, we don’t want to hear from God and we want to pretend we can handle it in bite size rules.

Turning to a rulebook to guide us in human relations is a mistake just as turning to God with a rulebook is. Yes, there are rules, but if they define the entirety of our interaction then we have NO relationship. Never fail a fitness test. Display higher value. Utilize preselection. Those can be rules that replace relationship, I’ve even seen this advocated (Don’t share your day to day struggles with your wife). This type of legalism can feel like it has all the answers, a solution for every problem, in our wives the appropriate reaction to every display of fitness testing, in the case of God a way to measure up in our own strength:

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
(Mat 15:8-9)


Rules don’t replace relationship. That was one of the biggest lessons the plain folks taught me. Does my wife have a sin nature, exhibit hypergamy, test my fitness? Of course and it’s good for me to see that dynamic. Do I want to systematize my interactions with her? To turn my responses into a static “defense”? Absolutely not. I want to relate with her and that is the interaction that is under attack by Satan and his minions in the feminist movement.

If we are not careful we will be pushed into two reactionary tracks in response to this attack. I reiterate, game and man-up. The third way is God, who understands the sinful nature that we are fighting in ourselves and in our wives better than we do, He knows the plans and schemes of feminists and He knows how to beat them before they even show up. God is neither reactionary nor static.

I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.
(Php 4:12-14)


Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:
(2Co 3:5-7)


Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
(Mat 11:28-30)


It’s all about relationship. We turn to Jesus, and that life under His yoke becomes an organic way of dealing with feminism, our wives and each other (without pulling out a volume that rivals “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” for verbosity.) It’s no guarantee of marital success, but in my estimation it is far superior to the rulebook.

I have an analogy that I go to when discussing relationship. Jesus described Himself as “the way”, so I cannot claim originality with this picture.  I have a road map and a set of rules for operating my car, I can use them to envision a trip to Anchorage. For some people this seems like enough, they have the directions, the rules. I want to drive to Anchorage (rarely, but you get the point). I want to go there and interact (buy stuff). I want to enjoy the mountains on the drive. I have to get in the car and apply myself, understand the directions yes, but the trip is always about more than the directions in practice while not in theory. One is rules, the other about experience.

It’s all about relationship.


26 thoughts on “Legalism and Game.

  1. It kind of rambles. I was just trying to hammer out my thoughts out on the subject and get a discussion rolling. The Gospel and game are both hot button topics so I expect we will see a discussion.

  2. “Rules don’t replace relationship”.

    What is “relationship”? If I feel like cheating, no rules bro? If I feel like hitting her? If i feel like forgetting her birthday or telling her mother to f**k off? No rules? Just do what I feel in all those cases?

    Ohhh! Suddenly now you’ll tell me there are rules after all, rules against all those things. You don’t object to rules at all. You might tell me those rules don’t count as rules because you learned them when you were young, but that’s not true. They are rules.

    What now, a tortured redefinition of “rule”?

    If you hit your wife, you’re making her miserable for no good reason. If you act like a limp loser around her, you’re making her miserable for no good reason. Show me the verse where God told you it’s a good idea to make her miserable.

    She needs your strength and leadership. Provide it, or you’re no husband.

  3. “It’s all about relationship.”
    One of the best post I have seen. Reminds me why ‘Fiddler On The Roof’ is one of my favorite christian movies.

  4. Zoyd, I think Jesus summed it up in His sermon on the mount. If you don’t hit her but you still want too while you have technically not broken the rule you have broken it in your heart (and so you have truly broken it). You can’t then look at your wife and say that you are a good husband simply based on the fact that you haven’t beat her. The rules aren’t do’s and dont’s, they have to be a changed heart, the Holy Spirit changing our hearts, changing our motives. It is our relationship with Him that turns what was a static and killing law into something alive and dynamic. Some of the “rules” of game, the technical operations do in fact work, but divorce them from that dynamic relationship with God and they will kill you like the Old Testament law.

    If I am motivated by the Holy Spirit to love my wife and apply a truth to our relationship who can fault me? On the other hand if I’m just trying to work my marriage to my own advantage out of selfish motivation is God in that? As I stated, our lives need to be Christ centered, not wife or self centered.

  5. This post has a Zen feel to it;

    “Before I learned the art, a punch was just a punch, and a kick, just a kick.
    After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick, no longer a kick.
    Now that I understand the art, a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick.”
    — Bruce Lee

    “Before I learned game, I just acted like myself.
    After I learned game, I stopped acting like myself.
    Now that I understand game, I just act like myself.”

    This isn’t meant as a not-so-subtle implication that “No you don’t know what you’re talking about, game is THE answer and you’re using it even if you don’t know it.” Rather, it’s “most men should probably learn game, and then learn the problems with it.”

  6. Re: lively game. It’s not against the rules to speak in parables, is it?

    The end game is pretty well fixed. No matter how you ended up in this position, queen gone, three pawns, a bishop, and two rooks still left, if you really knew what you were doing then there’s only possible move that makes any kind of sense. Because your options are so limited. The beginning game is also, believe it or not, pretty well fixed. There are plenty of possible moves, but almost all of them can be reasonably expected not to end well eventually, so there are ritualized openings, all of which have been thoroughly plumbed. So, the end is not lively, and neither is the beginning, operating from inevitability and scriptedness respectively. But the middle game exhibits personality and personalization and the effects of relationship.

  7. I agree seriously, if Gamers found something that worked they found a truth and truth belongs to God. My goal is to serve God and not just the truth. While I may do something that Athol Kay would say is marriage game what matters is WHY I did it. If I do it obedience to God, it’s obedience, if it was my own idea it’s sin. Cutting through the pragmatism of game down to a Godly motive is still an argument being made. I’m not a big fan of Dr. Dobson pscyhobabble churchianity either, but occasionally the psycho-Christians stumble on a legitimate truth that should be discussed and stripped of all its marrow.

  8. Interesting observation that game/white knights are two sides of the same coin. It would make sense in the context of Paul’s defense of his ministry is 2 Corinthians 10.

    Going to have to think that over more.

  9. Haha, I handed away a won game just the other day jf12 trying to be too forceful instead of playing the winning quiet move. First time I’ve lost to a human since playing my dad. Most of our lives are lived in the middle game, I think that is why so many people try to wrestle life into more meaningful chunks, breaking it up into tactical chess with defined sets of rules: rooks seize the open files, find good positions for your knights, trade off your bad bishop. Those considerations can lead to a loss of the big picture. A tactical play leading to a strategic loss (dad loved his sacrifices). I personally like the English open where I can constrict the middle game into a grinding positional trading game that takes the tactical edges away from better attackers (dad or computers). In life this seems like a safe, winning way of dealing with the mid-game, except my ways are not God’s ways and He can move me to a winning position if I’ll trust Him and allow it. My religion isn’t any good either.

    I think that many of us guys like being in those end-game scenarios. Where every decision counts and our choices while diminished have clear consequences. When the adrenaline is flowing and time seems to stand still. Take BASE jumping or combat even a two minute drill. Something about that just reaches us and cuts through our lives of quiet desperation. (I’ll be quoting John Eldredge here if I don’t stop).

  10. @GiL, yeah I feel I operate best under time pressure, but maybe it’s just the adrenaline.

    “My religion isn’t any good either.” I concluded a long time ago that the reason I could not get any better at chess is because I always played as if the rules were about to change or were subject to some degree of slop, for example as if pawns really could move sideways with 0.0001% probability. The thing about life, that makes things lively, is exactly this: there is always some slop, and things ARE always about to change.

  11. Chess to God is like tic-tac-toe, so is the history of creation. I can’t even optimize my lunch selection with any certainty let alone be expected to order my own life:

    And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
    (Mat 18:3-4)

  12. Empath:
    “I would suggest that Game and White Knightery are two sides to the same reactionary coin.”

    This has been my position on Game since I first heard about it. Really, there is little difference between the two: BOTH accept modern feminism as the standard female norm for women’s behavior; and teach men to adjust their OWN behavior accordingly. IOW, both teach that it’s the MAN who needs to change to suit the woman: both preach male submission and female dominance.

    As Fidelbogen once pointed out, it’s logically impossible to separate Feminism and Game as ideological constructs. They are mutually dependent on each other—without feminism, there would be no basis for Game, and vice-versa.

    The solution for men who want relationships is simple: choose women who are NOT feminists or educated in feminist cultures. Then it can be ‘about the relationship’ as you described; and not about competition and manipulation, as Game teaches.

  13. Eric, we were making a comparison between white knightery and Marxism somewhere today. You hear the same rationale behind the failure of both: you’re not doing it right, you’re not trying hard enough, you aren’t totally committed, this time it will work and on and on. Seems like I see this rationale behind proponents of game, often.

    Also, there are three author’s on this site.

  14. I am not certain you can have a relationship with a woman. You rule her, or she rules you. Some women do not require as much work as other women but no matter the woman or culture it’s still the same basic creature and same basic problems

  15. sfcton, “I am not certain you can have a relationship with a woman.”

    I suppose Jesus might say the same thing about us. Bonhoeffer suggested that when we have fellowship with each other that it needs to Christ that we are relating with. Christ in my sisters and brothers and barring this we are just two dead flesh men/women in a death grip like Riderhood and Headstone.

  16. sfcton’s comment is not completely unlike the Favour of Divorce post. There is a reason he made it. I understand why a man would say that.

    Not sure why I thought just now to share this, but here it is:

    Yesterday I was taking my eight year old to a large park, not exactly local but 20 mins away. Its a large conservation zone well constructed wooded park with very cool things for kids to do, more and above the typical. Its good dads and girls get out alone and do stuff. This is a treat because its easy just to head to the local parks and not go so far.

    Wife, well intended starts, “make sure you watch her very closely and dont get to reading or something……blah blah”

    When we all go, I can get seated and read books on my phone and be there but not be there.

    But it offended me and I reacted mid-her-lecture saying something like “Stop”, “we have 4 kids, Ive been in parks and beaches and woods and on boats and rides and in tents and all manner of things and its all good, I do not require the same instructrions as a 16 year old babysitter”

    Bless her, she laughs as she catches the snap.

  17. Excellent, I think when they actually intend well they sometimes just forget that they don’t really want to lecture us. Sometimes for us a look is sufficient, or a pause in my response like: “Are we really going there?”. I used to get angry, now we more often than not laugh about what used to have argument potential.

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