So we hopefully we all know that dating is out of the question, as far as biblical ways to get married. Many of the more (for lack of a better term) conservative Christian churches are rejecting the worldly custom as destructive to their youths but are faced with the conundrum of finding a replacement more compatible with Scripture.
If you’re like me, the solution to to the dating dilemma was presented in the form of something called courtship. Having had the unending follies of dating laid open to me, it seemed a very logical alternative to the Christian wanting to get married in a godly way. The mental response to someone who “didn’t believe in dating” and preferred “courtship” was, “How wholesome and spiritual!”
Now, for the big question: is courtship the Biblical design for marriage? Because to truly be spiritual, it’s got to be founded on the Word of Spirit. Having been in the courtship boat for many years, I can say I was surprised to find out what I did when I looked deeper into the Word of God for more information on the subject. There are also some major flaws with the system, in my opinion.
The Courtship Method is Ambiguous
It is unanimously agreed by the courtship advocates that specifically defining courtship is impossible. There is no set formula, they say. There are really no hard and fast concepts. It is subjective to every individual and family and situation; no rules can possibly be put into place.
When you try to ask questions to get clarification on what should or should not be done, the answers are usually vague at best and unbiblical non-answers at the worst. It depends, they say. Every family is different. Well then, what that means is the standard is dependent on each family, not the Word of God. If you claim to hold to the Bible for all matters of faith and practice, which does not change and is not relative to each family, courtship is not Biblical. It is a creature of society, not the Lord – just as dating is.
I wonder how can such a practice be deemed as the biblical way… this raises the red flag of of moral relativism in my mind. It’s great to run from dating, but just because you reject dating doesn’t mean you should latch on to any kind of alternative at the drop of a hat. Yes, you need a formula for making a marriage. Why not ask God? Don’t just blindly accept anything because it seems opposed to wickedness; prove all things. Look in the Book. You need standards. Courtship really doesn’t have any, when you get down to it.
Courtship is Really Just Dating in Disguise
A false dichotomy is two ideas that are presented as opposed to each other, but when you look closer they are really the same thing with a few minor differences. Those differences are presented on the outside to look so contrasting in order to confuse you into thinking they are opposites. Then you are supposed to side with one or the other.
While some contrasts between the dating model and the courtship model do exist, the fact remains that just as with dating, there is no obligation to hold the couple together throughout the process. Both dating and courtship are seen as “trial periods” to determine whether or not a relationship is a good fit. Though physical intimacy may be withheld, it is still seen as an emotional test-drive and can be terminated at any time for the same reasons one would break up in a dating relationship – without any obligation to the other party. At this stage, nothing is truly binding. The same is true of the engagement phase. The difference between courting and engagement is generally that a little more physical intimacy is generally accepted and the couple is planning their “big day.”
The intent of courtship is to experiment with the concept of marriage. It has no binding aspect other than the feelings of those involved. Marriage may or may not be the final outcome, depending on how the test-drive goes. Courtship is based on the same foundation as dating. A little less promiscuity, a little more parental involvement… but in essence, it’s the same thing. The mentality persists: like it, try it on, and if it doesn’t fit, take it back. It’s dating repackaged with a Christian label.
What does this mean? As with dating, the trial-period mentality is destructive. Often times the parties get to know and understand each other on a very deep level, much more than they would in the superficial dating environment. In fact, the emotional entanglements are usually stronger when one is seriously considering marriage to the other person as the end goal during each gathering. If things “don’t work out,” it is even more painful than a typical breakup!
Assuming “more parental involvement” means keeping the parents in the room at all times to babysit the lovers (which of course is a big assumption, given that itself isn’t a rule), dangers of a physical nature are really the only dangers that are reduced. Bringing Mom and Dad on a date probably means that no fornication or other fleshly physical contact is going to happen on the spot. That’s about the only guarantee. But those love knots can still be tied just as strongly.
Courtship is Emotion-Based
A big part of courtship consists of what pro-courtship folks call “seeking God’s will.” But in fact, their methods for determining God’s will almost always consist of relying more on feelings, seeking visible signs as an indication of God’s blessing and other charismatic practices. Certain circumstances that seem to “bring them together” in an unlikely or unusual fashion are taken to mean God was arranging things. A feeling of epiphany that the other person is their future spouse often seals the deal. They prayed hard about it and felt a feeling of peace.
But if things fall through the cracks despite these “signs,” (Matthew 12:39) they blame God for allegedly not holding up His end of things and letting all of this pain happen. Their faith may be shaken. This is because they were being deceived by their hearts all along.
The problem is that this whole method depends on some external kind of “forces” they all have to be “sensitive” to in order to know what they should do, trying to weigh their decisions on circumstances rather than the Word of God. They may couch it in more religious-sounding language, like “You just have to follow the leading of the Spirit” when really they are following the leading of their own imaginations (see my short study on those). Well, ladies, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to “feel” out for God’s will if you have a King James Bible in your possession! You don’t need to get into a bunch of charismatic mystic nonsense to know what you should do or who your intended spouse should be! The Bible has the answers to everything you need to know for life, and don’t think for a minute it doesn’t give any guidance on the subject of getting married especially. The trouble is people don’t actually look in it for what they should do. Seeking God’s will is only possible when a saved soul opens that Holy Book up with a heart to know the mind of the Lord. You can’t know it by looking to yourself, your circumstances, what seems like a good idea, or what seems to be the way to go. I’m so sick of this touchy-feely, cotton-candy-so-called-Christianity that goes by emotions rather than the Bible. It’s such a farce. Either you believe in the sufficiency of Scripture or you’re going to jump on every heretical wagon that passes by. Let’s get back to the Bible for a change! God cares about the believer, but He doesn’t work lead a Christian in their walk by emotions or signs. He leads by the light of His Word:
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
Now THAT is the beacon to follow! It won’t mislead you, it won’t pull you down the rabbit hole into the mess of tangled emotions and silly sign-seeking. Good emotions often come as a result of following the Bible but they aren’t the beacon to direct your decisions by.
To recap, some people think courtship is a much “safer” alternative because it allows both parties to get to know each other with things being more open, family-wise, and a strong father-daughter bond is allegedly in place to keep lines of communication open. That all sounds good, but the truth is that the girl can be just as emotionally involved if not EVEN MORE than in dating, because she is thinking of this person as her potential husband each time they are getting together! This creates a closeness even more intimate than simple recreational dating. Courtship also places the whole process outside of Scriptural principals, looking to other means of knowing what to do.
Courtship is Not Instituted by God
Firstly, we never find the word “courtship” anywhere in the King James Bible. “Court” appears only in reference to the walled area of a house or palace.
Courtship as we know it is actually a relatively new concept. It originated from Enlightenment thinking.
“During the Enlightenment, thinkers like John Locke started shifting the landscape for courtship, marriage, and family. In Locke’s essay “The First Treatise on Government,’’ he redefines family government, demolishing many of the theological underpinnings for patriarchy, and makes a case for individual liberty under God. America was founded on the principles of individual liberty inspired by Enlightenment thinkers. The concepts of individual liberty and freedom of conscience go back to the Pilgrims. Because of this, America is somewhat unique in the world in that it has no clear tradition of Arranged Marriage… Enlightened Courtship taught that that you would have a happier marriage if love came first. So, to help love come first, people slowly began to spend more time getting to know each other before marriage… In the early 1800s, people began to seek out relationships passionately and emotionally instead of analytically. The tension between these two contrasting views of romance is captured well in some of Jane Austen’s books.” – https://www.thomasumstattd.com/2015/05/history-of-courtship/
And we do not find any God-approved example of what we have previously described as courtship in the Scriptures either. There is no series of family get-togethers, as important as family is, for the couple to get to know each other in the presence of their kin. There is no period of correspondence, private or otherwise, between the man and the maid. There are no outings, no letters, no exchanging of flowers or sweets or poetry or anything else traditionally associated with courtship or dating for that matter. What we find is something totally outside the scope of both of them. It is a completely different formula, something that wasn’t simply borrowed form the world’s designed and cleaned up a bit for the Christian people to use.
I have heard one scripture cited to try to point to some shadow of what might appear be courtship, if you put your glasses on and get out your telescope. That is Proverbs 30:19:
“There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.” (Proverbs 30:18, 19)
Those who use this to defend courtship say, “See? There’s just that mysterious wonderful chemistry that goes on with two people who are young and in love, and they have to have time to interact with each other and see if it is a good fit, and we can’t understand it or put any sort of rules to it.” But this passage is so far of a cry from being a proponent of courtship or such flirtations that it actually is opposed to it, if you look at it in its context. “Wonderful” does not always mean good in the King James Bible. See Deuteronomy 28:59. The sense is sometimes simply referring to that which cannot be fathomed or understood – i.e., “know not.” And now let’s look at the comparisons to man/woman flirtations… we have three unpredictable things, including a serpent. I take these to be warnings. You have no idea where this thing is going to go or what is going to happen. I find it interesting that Bunyan paraphrases this passage to say “the way of a wanton with a maid.” It seems those who read this passage in old time took for granted this was not speaking about a godly relationship, but rather the flirtatious advances of a lustful man. A wanton is not an honourable man and should certainly not be put forth as a model for how a marriage is made, especially considering no marriage or related elements to marriage are even mentioned in this passage.
Well we seem to be in quite a conundrum now, don’t we. Dating and courtship both unscriptural? How can anyone possibly get married now?
This leads us to the next question: is there a biblical guide for getting hitched? You don’t need to panic because God hasn’t left us up a creek without a paddle. Please continue on to read here.