Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed

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Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Very pragmatic. Too bad he didn't interact more with scripture. All the Bible got was a quick, back-handed swipe and then back to human reasoning. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Wayne Wilson's picture

Fascinating article. Clearly a lot of thinking has gone into it, and some excellent points for discussion have been made. I do have a few comments.

1. I am surprised such a thorough article should present Traditional Dating based on ideas from the author’s grandmother. That’s it? Date around? A common practice in the “greatest generation”, and you can see this in Emily Post and all the etiquette columnists of the day, was the chaperone. All kinds of social settings, events, and group sizes, even just a few people, could get together and do activities as long as someone, even an older sibling was there to make sure temptation didn’t win. And yes, you can get to know someone that way. Most of those enduring marriages did just that. And of course, Dad could say, “I don’t want you hanging around Billy.” Parents often are a good judge of character. Mine certainly were, though they gave me much freedom. I am amazed you did not address this central idea from an earlier, and much more innocent, time.

2. We encouraged, but didn’t force, our children to court. It worked out fine. As adults, they felt more free to do occasional “just two” dates. Generally, however, they adhered to good sound rules to guard their purity. Young men asked me (Dad) for permission to see the girls. I don’t think I ever said “No.”

3. All the marriages we know from more intentional, and some would say controlling courtship situations (Yeah, first kiss at the wedding, etc) have all turned out quite well. No divorces…close families. Anything can be abused, and I’m sure that happens in very insular groups. I haven’t seen these sad things among those I know who practice courtship. Just lots of love…a rather mature love.

4. I don’t think the author sufficiently accounts for the huge cultural change regarding sexuality between his grandmother’s time and now.

Kevin Miller's picture

Wayne Wilson wrote:

1. I am surprised such a thorough article should present Traditional Dating based on ideas from the author’s grandmother.

I was going to post a response to Chip, but your line here got me thinking in a different direction. Chip said that the Bible only got a back-handed swipe.. I copied out the following quote before I read your post.

"But the Bible is surprisingly quiet when it comes to laying out a system of courtship. Courtship Systems are cultural, and the Bible rarely advocates one cultural approach over another."

I was going to discuss whether we could really use the Bible's examples of courtship if we are no longer in 1st century culture. But as you point out, Wayne, we are also not in the 30's and 40's culture anymore, so are we really able to use the examples from THAT culture? Perhaps the courtship culture SHOULD be more of a guide than outside culture, since it's in the Bible, but it just doesn't need to be as rigidly followed as if we were still in the 1st century.

Pastor Doug H's picture

I found it interesting that he made no real age distinctives, such as under 18, 18-21, and say college graduate.  I will wholeheartedly agree that there needs to be a balance but the author seems to do a pendulum swing. As well he doesn't work through a father's responsibility for the care and nurturing of his children, a child's responsibility to be obedient to their parents. The author on the other hand makes it sound like the child should dictate what the parents agree to (again this where theology and an age distinction would have benefited).  His basic premise seems to be I hate courtship so should you.

He kept using the term "traditional dating" but defined it by using his grandmother's idea of dating who "grew up in a marginally Christian community. People went to church on Sunday but that was the extent of their religious activity. They were not the Bible-reading, small-grouping, mission-tripping Christian young people common in evangelical churches today."

As for Harris' two books on this subject matter, I'm not sure the author does a good job of interacting with them.  As a father of two daughters (teen and twenty something) both know that mom and i would like to know the people, let alone boys they are going out with.  And yes I advise the 21 yr old and "decree" on the teen Smile .  But in both cases they have been taught what the bible says about being unequally yoked and the great temptation of sexual sin (again the author makes some broad brushed assertions in this matter). 

 

 

Bert Perry's picture

...the fact of the matter, as anyone who's read "Cheaper by the Dozen" and "Belles on their Toes" knows (I highly recommend these books by Frank Gilberth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth, BTW), is that "old fashioned dating" really, um, "dates" back only to the talkies for most of our culture.  Moreover, it's worth noting that the "old fashioned dating" culture took only about 30 years to give birth (so to speak) to the sexual revolution and the highest divorce rates in history, and another 30 years to yield to a hook-up culture.  Even in the 1940s, it was very common for the "gem" a girl found while dating to turn out to be quite the drunken lout.

So I'm thinking that the gentleman has a little bit of thinking to do before endorsing 1940s and 1950s dating culture, to put it mildly.  While there are certainly flaws in the courtship culture--some fathers do protect their daughters from even decent gentlemen--that's not sufficient reason to cast out the central premiss, which is that parents ought to be involved in the selection of their childrens' mates.  For that matter, I would have to guess that the marriages from the 1940s era that worked are.....the ones where parents were involved in the selection of their childrens' mates.

Which is, I think, one of the big things, along with the involvement of friends, that made my dating relationship with my wife work so well.  We always had people encouraging us "yes, she's a keeper" and "yes, he's worth it"--and had there been other issues, I'm thinking they would have mentioned that, too.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

One final note is that, despite having attended a high school with 1600 students and colleges with 42000 and 27000 students, I can't ever remember a time when I could point to 20 Christian young ladies or young gentlemen worth dating.  So the very premiss of "playing the field", in my experience, means you're going to start dating non-Christians or marginal Christians.    I did that a bit when young, not a good idea, to put it mildly.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Wayne Wilson's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

Wayne Wilson wrote:

 

1. I am surprised such a thorough article should present Traditional Dating based on ideas from the author’s grandmother.

 

I was going to post a response to Chip, but your line here got me thinking in a different direction. Chip said that the Bible only got a back-handed swipe.. I copied out the following quote before I read your post.

 

"But the Bible is surprisingly quiet when it comes to laying out a system of courtship. Courtship Systems are cultural, and the Bible rarely advocates one cultural approach over another."

I was going to discuss whether we could really use the Bible's examples of courtship if we are no longer in 1st century culture. But as you point out, Wayne, we are also not in the 30's and 40's culture anymore, so are we really able to use the examples from THAT culture? Perhaps the courtship culture SHOULD be more of a guide than outside culture, since it's in the Bible, but it just doesn't need to be as rigidly followed as if we were still in the 1st century.

 

I quite agree.

Lee's picture

Scripture communicates truth in at least 5 ways: through doctrine; by command; through principle; through precedent; and by illustration.

As the author noted, there are at least 4 very broad precedents that apply to the "find a mate" model, all of which have biblical legitimacy.  To say that courtship (basically an arranged or semi-arranged marriage scenario) is the only way (an arena flirted with in many evangelical circles) or that it has no legitimacy does disservice to the Scripture models.  On the other hand to assert that the seek and find method of the 50's is now the biblically legitimate way or reject it outright as was popular just a few years ago also does disservice to the biblical models. 

Here's the story: scripture does not give you an absolute method for finding a mate.  That is a personal work of the Holy Spirit in accordance to the revealed truth of Scripture and may (often does) vary some or greatly from individual to individual/culture to culture. 

What scripture is plain about is why to get married--make one; avoid fornication; raise a godly seed to name just a few--and what the expectation is for the marriage relationship regardless of how the pre-marriage ritual applied, whether the marriage was arranged, a result of falling in love, of convenience,  or whatever.

Courtship works!  Dating/falling in love works!  Marriages of convenience work!  IF the scripture commands/principles for marriage are applied.  The problem is not in how the mate is picked (assuming basic scripture truths like not marrying an unbeliever, etc., are followed) but in consistently following the scripture plan for a marriage.

Lee

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

Wayne Wilson wrote:

 

1. I am surprised such a thorough article should present Traditional Dating based on ideas from the author’s grandmother.

 

I was going to post a response to Chip, but your line here got me thinking in a different direction. Chip said that the Bible only got a back-handed swipe.. I copied out the following quote before I read your post.

 

"But the Bible is surprisingly quiet when it comes to laying out a system of courtship. Courtship Systems are cultural, and the Bible rarely advocates one cultural approach over another."

I was going to discuss whether we could really use the Bible's examples of courtship if we are no longer in 1st century culture. But as you point out, Wayne, we are also not in the 30's and 40's culture anymore, so are we really able to use the examples from THAT culture? Perhaps the courtship culture SHOULD be more of a guide than outside culture, since it's in the Bible, but it just doesn't need to be as rigidly followed as if we were still in the 1st century.

For the sake of clarity, I was pointing at the general lack of biblical content, not content supporting one position or the other. The author briefly argued against a few scriptures on courtship, but never discussed any biblical principals at all supporting his position.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Jim's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

One final note is that, despite having attended a high school with 1600 students and colleges with 42000 and 27000 students, I can't ever remember a time when I could point to 20 Christian young ladies or young gentlemen worth dating.  So the very premiss of "playing the field", in my experience, means you're going to start dating non-Christians or marginal Christians.    I did that a bit when young, not a good idea, to put it mildly.

  • I worry about you ... looking for "young gentleman worth dating"
  • My experience at a larger University (University of Cincinnati) ... and in a large (Campus Crusade for Christ) Christian community, is that at any one time there were 20 chicks interested in me. Of course I have the Brad Pittish good looks! Smile
WilliamD's picture

One of the elders in our church had an arranged marriage. He got to meet her once when he flew to India, he had several phone calls and then they got married. Both families agreed to the match, both the potential bride and groom agreed to it and they have been happily married now for 9 years with two kids. They are very  mature and Christ-loving people. All the superficiality was removed from the process and the two had to grapple with the big issues up front with each other. They made a commitment to each other and they have learned to love one another rather than falling in love. 

JC's picture

that arranged marriages got another look in.   

Steve Newman's picture

Scripture says a lot more about what we do after we get married than before. I think the Lord allows for some variety in how cultures lead to marriage.

There are basics, such as purity, as have been mentioned.

What the article points out is the need for more depth of interaction between young men and women to help them discern the Lord's will and their desires.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Steve Newman wrote:

Scripture says a lot more about what we do after we get married than before. I think the Lord allows for some variety in how cultures lead to marriage.

There are basics, such as purity, as have been mentioned.

What the article points out is the need for more depth of interaction between young men and women to help them discern the Lord's will and their desires.

Steve, 

The only place God has instructed us to go to "discern His will" is the scriptures. Hence my original and follow-up posts. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

The flaw of the courtship model, like many other child-rearing methods, is putting faith in the method instead of in Christ. While many principles of courtship have roots in Scriptural principles, too many parents think following a formula will conquer the flesh. Only a regenerate heart and obedient spirit can conquer the flesh. So IMO courtship itself isn't legalistic per se, but the amount of faith some parents seem to place in it smacks of idolatry.

I've met some rabid courtship parents who have a checklist for anyone interested in their son/daughter - "Are you a virgin?", "Are you going into full-time ministry?", "Do you have a good job?" have always appeared at the top of the list. What is usually missing is "How are the fruits of the Spirit evident in your life?"

Personally, I support a moderate version of the courtship idea. I do believe that the purpose of 'dating' is to find a mate, so young people shouldn't engage in any kind of dating/courtship until they are mature enough to consider being in an exclusive relationship. We teach them that love is a commitment, not an emotion. We encourage our kids to interact with and have many friends of the opposite gender until they reach that stage in their development, which can be a different age for each child. We get to know our kids' friends and their parents and siblings, period. I think parental guidance is important, but I don't believe in parents 'choosing' their child's spouse. 

I tried the 'date a different guy' thing in Bible college, and was labeled as promiscuous, rebellious, unsubmissive, blahblahblah, especially from the ones whom God had apparently informed that I was to be their wife. 

Steve Newman's picture

The only place God has instructed us to go to "discern His will" is the scriptures. Hence my original and follow-up posts. 

It is because the Scriptures are not clear in how one is acquire a mate that this whole discussion is taking place.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Steve Newman wrote:

The only place God has instructed us to go to "discern His will" is the scriptures. Hence my original and follow-up posts. 

It is because the Scriptures are not clear in how one is acquire a mate that this whole discussion is taking place.

Steve,

You initially posted "that the article points out is the need for more depth of interaction between young men and women to help them discern the Lord's will..." This may be the point of the article, but it is not a biblical assertion. We discern the Lord's will in scripture. That is the only pace He has instructed us to go to discern His will. What he indicates there is that we are given great freedom to make decisions within the framework He has provided in scripture, not that we go as far as we can with scripture then look for some other special leading on a case by case basis outside of scripture - like by spending time with people to find out who the "right" one is. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Andrew Comings's picture

If we need a truly biblical model for pre-marriage relationships, I would like to suggest Judges 21:16-23. 

I'll write a book "I Kissed Dating Goodbye...and Kidnapped My Wife from a Drunken Party". It will include glowing testimonies of others who have used the same method, and be shelved next to "The Prayer of Jabez" at Christian bookstores.

Missionary in Brazil, author of "The Astonishing Adventures of Missionary Max" Online at: http://www.comingstobrazil.com http://cadernoteologico.wordpress.com

Bert Perry's picture

Andrew, I know they were dancing, but were they drunk, too?  All we know is that they hid in the vineyards, which would imply that the leaves were still green and the crop likely still on the vine or just harvested.  :^)  I'm guessing the "tirosh" had not yet fermented, and was definitely not an aged "yayin".

OK, seriously, one thing I think we can infer from the Scriptures--Samson's procurement of a Philistine wife, the parental tone of Proverbs, Andrew's passage from Judges,  etc..--is that ordinarily parents were involved in the selection of mates for their children, and ordinarily children did not go against their parents' wishes in selection of a mate.  There is also the reality that parents had a very strong initiative to find mates for their children--if they did not succeed in doing this, their land would go to others when they died, and they would not have grandchildren to care for them while the parents were doing things like working in the fields.  

So I think we can do some inference from that, really.  Absent a strong reason to bar parents from influencing their children's marriages--I'd set it roughly at various felonies being committed--we ought to presume the right of the parents to help guide their childrens' marriage choices.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JohnBrian's picture

...was dating a guy in college and my dad was visiting and met him.

My dad didn't show great interest in the young man (not like my other daughter's boyfriend) and that was one of the reasons my daughter stopped seeing the young man. My other daughter married that boyfriend.

Their grandpa was not much of a talker but my girls trusted him and his mild dislike of the one youth was significant.

p.s. I occasionally misspeak and refer to them as my son and daughter-in-law instead of the the other way around, because we view him as a son!

CanJAmerican - my blog
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Ron Bean's picture

It is God's revealed will that you marry a Christian and stay married. Who is she (he)? She (he) is the one you marry. God does not play "Let's Make a Deal" where his perfect spouse is behind door number one but his permitted spouse is behind door number two and the wrong choice is behind door number three.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Bert Perry's picture

John Brian's comment about his daughters' experience reminds me of a time when my wife and I had dinner with an engaged couple, and during that dinner, the young lady figured out that while her intended had time for her in romantic pursuits, he was utterly inept when presented with a situation where his intended's attention was not solely focused on him.  They broke up soon after that.  It reminds me of the situation in Song of Solomon where the friends are discussing the match with the bride--I don't think they're just there to sing the chorus.

Hence I wonder if we can also infer that the guidance of friends is key in establishing a solid, Biblical marriage--and that whether a dating or courtship model is chosen, if this guidance is neglected or faulty, the couple will likely suffer.  Overall, it would seem that the key factor in solid marriage is the interaction with community in courting/dating.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

  • "Ordination" story: Mother (single bc of divorce) held a mini-ordination style Q&A for friend of mine before he could date her daughter. Friend was architectural student and needed quite a bit of coaching to pass. He and his bride have been married 30 years
  •  Courtship: Friend dutifully asked the Dad if he could date the daughter. Friend is a seminary grad and straightup guy. Dad approved ... daughter said "no way"
  • One more:
    • Young adult gal asked me to evaluate a Christian man who had expressed interest in her
    • I asked her: "If on your wedding night, you became pregnant; could he provide for you?"
    • The guy could barely provide for himself ... she saw the light