In the last week, my post Why Courtship Is Fundamentally Flawed received over half a million readers and over 100,000 comments, likes, and shares on Facebook. It has sparked a robust discussion in the comments section with over 1000 lengthy responses.
So, I would like to respond to some of the most frequent questions and concerns. The following are synthesized versions of common comments, questions and objections.
If you have not yet done so, I recommend you read Why Courtship Is Flawed first. It is the more important post.
Want to a better case for why courtship is fundamentally flawed? Check out our Kickstarter campaign for the upcoming book Courtship in Crisis.
Visit the Kickstarter Page for Courtship in Crisis
“Are you saying parents should be uninvolved in the process like they are in modern dating?”
No. No. No.
I think many of the people who are asking this merely skimmed the article instead of actually reading it.
I am arguing for a different kind of parental involvement: that of a trusted adviser rather than a dictator. I am trying to show that parental control over adult children can do more harm than good. The kind of parent who feels “no control” is “no involvement” may have control issues. If the comments are any gauge, most young people long for relationship advice from their parents.
Parents play a vital role in traditional dating. They meet the dates and give their son or daughter advice on what they like and don’t like about each one. This way they help their children learn to make their own good decisions.
Then both young people (if they are still minors) get permission from their own parents before they start “going steady.” During the going steady phase the parents are giving advice and encouragement. If they are both adults, this permission step is often skipped although advise is still sought.
Then finally the guy gets permission/blessing from the girl’s father before they transition from going steady to engagement. This step typically happens despite their age. So a 34 year old man would still ask permission/blessing before popping the question to a 34 year old woman. During the engagement phase, the couple is still getting parental guidance. The culmination of this is the rehearsal dinner where the parents typically give short speeches of relationship advice and encouragement.
“You are encouraging children to rebel against their parents. You should have a millstone tied around your neck and should be cast into the sea.”
This may be the first time I have had Christians cuss me out and wish for my death. This is the inevitable outcome of this sort of conversation. I expected it. The good news is more people are praying for my salvation now than ever before. I appreciate the prayer however it is intended.
My audience for these posts is single adults (18+). According to Google Analytics, the majority of readers of the original post are over the age of 18. I am far more concerned about the 25-year-old stay at home daughter who has never gone out on a date than I am about the 16-year-old guy who believes dating is evil.
It makes sense to me that the younger a child is, the more control the parents extend over his or her life. My Podcast Co-host and bestselling author James L Rubart has a three step process he went through with his sons of Dictator, Coach, Friend. As his sons matured, the nature of his relationship with them changed. By the time they were 18 they had transitioned into the “friend stage” with him. This sounds very healthy to me.
For a great post on this, see author Mary DeMuth’s wonderful advice on parenting your children through romantic relationships.
“Our courtship worked. Therefore, courtship works.”
My thesis is not that Courtship is universally flawed. It is fundamentally flawed in the same way a Yugo was a fundamentally flawed car. Yugos sometimes worked. For some people they lasted years. But eventually they all broke. While all cars break down eventually, some cars break down faster than others. The better the initial design the longer the car lasts.
Many of the successful courtship stories posted in the comments contain a statement like “we used a modified form of courtship.” So they knew they needed to modify the Yugo to make it more reliable. If you are a good mechanic, you could keep a Yugo running for a long time. This does not negate the premise that the fundamental design is flawed.
I suspect most singles would prefer their romance be more like a BMW than a Yugo.
I am not saying Courtship is evil, or that it will lead inevitably to singleness or divorce. God gives us a lot of freedom when it comes to relationships. I have nothing against Arranged Marriage or its little sister Courtship. If it has worked for you, great!
If it is not working for you, I would like to humbly suggest an old fashioned alternative called “Traditional Dating” that worked for my grandparents’ generation.
Just because something is flawed does not make it wrong or evil. I am not here to judge you if you prefer courtship.
“Joshua Harris is a terrible person for advocating courtship. He ruined my life.”
Ultimately we are all responsible for our own decisions. I have no one to blame for my failures other than myself.
I have a deep respect for Joshua Harris. His teaching led a generation of conservatives away from promiscuity. He helped move us from the cultural norm of hooking up on the first date to having a first kiss at the altar. His call for holiness is something we should heed still. I remember being so fired up for Christ after listening to one of his teachings that I shared the gospel with a couple of complete strangers at a Walgreens. I just couldn’t help myself.
I really respect him for dedicating his life to advancing the Kingdom full time by leading and planting churches.
I know some of you have been wounded by courtship in the past. Some of the stories in the comments have broken my heart. I had no idea how bad it was for some people. These outcomes were not Joshua Harris’ intent. He, like me, was a single man trying to respond to a broken relationship culture and trying to direct people back to Christ.
It was other conservative leaders who weaponized Harris’ teachings and used them to chain singles into a rigid set of rules. They turned I Kissed Dating Goodbye into a religion called Courtship.
One of my fears with my post is people will do the same thing with it. I don’t want to see Traditional Dating turned into yet another set of chains. Please say “no” to legalism.
“I courted, and now I am in an abusive relationship. What should I do?”
You are a child of our heavenly Father. He loves you. You belong to Him and no one else. Don’t let anyone twist the Scripture into an excuse for abuse.
There are safe places where you can go to get help. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline anytime at 1-800-799-SAFE or 1-800-799-7223.
If your church feels like an unsafe place find a friend or a family member who will shelter you until you can get further help.
“It is unfair to tell guys to avoid women who say, ‘Talk to my dad.’”
One reason I wrote this post is because about half a dozen godly single men asked me to write it. They had done their best to honor God through courtship and had ended up with broken spirits. The heart of my post was to encourage them and the others like them to try again. That is my heart.
First off, the section at the end of Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed is advice. I am not giving commands. There have been enough commands about relationships from others. You don’t need them from me. And who am I to tell you what to do anyway. I’m just some guy with a blog.
Secondly, I am talking about relationships between adults. If you are 14, you should talk to your parents about these posts and let them set me straight.
Finally, I’m not saying it is wrong to pursue a girl who requires a guy to fight a dragon before winning her heart. I just wouldn’t advise it in most situations.
7 Reasons I Don’t Recommend Going After Dragon-Guarded Women
- Getting parental approval to start makes things too intense too quickly. Getting permission to enter a relationship whose purpose is marriage, before getting to know the girl, is like stepping on the gas while also stepping on the brakes. That is not a healthy way to start a relationship. Better to begin as “just friends” who get coffee or ice cream every now and again. Please read the original post for all of the problems that come from getting too intense too soon. Here is another way to think of it: it’s like trying to bake cookies at 500 degrees. The higher temperature the harder it is to avoid burnt cookies.
- There is a good chance “Talk to my dad” is really her way of saying “no.” Often girls feel bad about hurting a guy’s feelings by saying “no.” It is easier for a girl to send the man to her dad who can say “no” for her. So my advice is to take the hint and take the “no” for what it really is.
- There may be maturity issues. If she doesn’t feel mature enough to give you a direct answer, there is a chance she is not mature enough for the relationship. The kind of girls protected in this way are often the kind of girls who don’t have a lot of freedom to make their own choices, which can stunt their emotional maturity. They may still live at home and lack the real world experience for the kind of serious marriage-bound courtship the dad will likely insist you have.
- There may be trust issues. Assuming she is an adult (18+), the fact that her parents don’t let her make this decision reveals their distrust. If her parents, who have known her all her life, don’t trust her, then why should you? These trust issues may instead be a symptom of a lack of trust in God. On the other hand, she could be an amazing trustworthy girl whose suspicious parents are unwilling to cede control over her life to her.
- The parents may need to be “handled” for the rest of the relationship. Some of the comments say that the man should ”man up” and “handle” the father. This can put an undue strain on the relationship and can lead to some very sad outcomes as I’ve seen in the comments. Ideally, family gatherings should be something couples look forward to. No one wants Christmas to be a warzone.
- It makes the relationship mathematically more complex. Two people together is one relationship. Three people triples the number of relationships to three. A true courtship with all four parents involved is 15 different relationships. Any of these relationships can bring tension into the romantic relationship. The more people in a relationship, the harder it is to “shake hands and make up.” The inevitable reconciliation needed for a healthy relationship can become nearly impossible. The less flawed model is to have only one relationship between two people who get advice from 4 trusted advisers. Thanks to Stephen McCants for correcting my math on this.
- It is not your place to change someone’s family. Unconditional love means you love without conditions. This means accepting someone for who they are. Going into a relationship with a goal to change someone or their family is not love, it is manipulation. This goes both ways.
I will admit, there can be great rewards for the knight who fights off the dragon to win the hand of the princess. This is an old story and one knight may succeed where many others have fallen.
There have been many stories in the comments of married women who are thankful for their dragon fighting husbands. There is nothing new under the sun. Domineering fathers will always be with us. I agree it is unfair to doom guarded adult daughters to lifelong singleness.
But if you were my friend, I would advise you to try to find a girl without a dragon flying about her castle.
“Are you saying that we can rely solely on human wisdom in relationships?”
Unless the Lord builds your relationship you labor in vain regardless of what method you are using. No system is a substitute for the Holy Spirit.
“Are you saying if I use traditional dating I will have a long and happy marriage like your grandparents?”
No system is perfect. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. We are all broken and any human system will contain that brokenness. Some systems are more broken than others. Your trust should be in Christ, not in the system you are using.
But just because no system is perfect is no excuse to use no system at all. Just because the cookies can burn in any recipe is no excuse to reject the idea of recipes altogether. The better the recipe you are working from, the better your chance for success. I don’t recommend baking with a fundamentally flawed recipe which must be modified in order to work.
“I am 25 years old and no guy has ever asked me out on a date. What should I do?”
As a man I am very hesitant to answer this question but it is too common in the comments not to make the attempt.
First I would recommend talking to a friend who is recently married and ask her to coach you. Talk to your mom as well. Trusting God is not an excuse for inaction. Don’t sit on the couch trusting God that he will do the dishes for you. Trust that he will give you the ability to wash the dishes yourself. God put us on this planet to work and relationships require work from both the man and the woman. Don’t confuse laziness with holiness.
Second, watch your vibes. There is a vibe girls send out when they are in a relationship with a man. This vibe communicates they are “off the market.” Some Christian girls unintentionally put out this vibe in an attempt to “guard their hearts.” The result is that honorable guys leave them alone and they only get hit on by dishonorable men or no men at all.
My advice to you is to be friendly to guys. Make eye contact, smile, laugh, and give them attention. I can think of nothing more attractive about a girl than a genuine smile. This is not Turkey where women are discouraged from laughing in public. The Bible encourages us to speak kind words to each other.
Before a guy can pursue you, he needs to notice you and have hope that he has a chance with you. This can be a beautiful relational dance. But like any dance, this one requires both people to participate.
Move your purity ring to your right hand. A ring on your left ring finger can look like an engagement ring and communicates to honorable men that you are taken. When my sister made this shift, she suddenly had many honorable men asking her out. It was a night and day change. Even as a guy, I wear my purity ring on my right hand.
“Courtship is Biblical because the Church is Christ’s bride.”
Just because all cats are mammals does not mean all mammals are cats.
God gave us marriage to help us understand a small part of the glory that is Christ and the church. I don’t think we can expect to fully understand something Paul described as a great mystery. If you are expecting all of that glory to fit into your marriage (or courtship), I fear you may be disappointed. Remember we are all prodigal sons, prone to wander.
Also I should note that Christ’s marriage with the church is (arguably) an arranged marriage. So I am not sure how this supports courtship. For the vocal advocates of arranged marriage, I would like to reiterate that I have nothing against you or your system. I admire your willingness to buck the culture.
Don’t Forget to Love God First and Foremost
As Christians, our mission is to love God and love each other. This is the greatest commandment. The purpose of all of our activities whether it be dating, courtship, arranged marriage or washing the dishes should be to love God.
Binding each other with man-made rules is not love. Taking advantage of each other is not love. Manipulating each other is not love. Love is patient and kind. Love is not boastful, proud or rude.
As we discuss this topic let us be patient and kind. Let’s try not to be boastful, proud or rude. If we practice loving each other as we discuss this, it will be good practice for discussing difficult topics with our future spouses. Learning to disagree agreeably is a great skill to help any relationship.
“In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.”
I hope this one gets passed around like the first! You had some absolutely amazing thoughts here!
My final response to this whole debacle. 😛
Nice follow up article. Enjoyed it more than the first.
“Trusting God is not an excuse for inaction.” yessssss. *crowd goes wild*
Um, I though that’s what made dating easier than courting? That it takes relatively low or no action compared to courting. To get a date, sit back, relax and wait for the guy to make for the first move.
But courting, dang you might have to use some effort to get that man worth courting to notice you!
Let me see if I’m understanding this – the conservative method, courting, may require beautiful Christian girls to put forth effort to get the attention of the guy she might like… That makes sense. I’d advocate Christian girls being less reserved and dressing beautifully. I would marry a girl like that – absolutely. Freedom of Conscience!
Unless you’re in Europe, in which case, said purity ring should be worn on the left hand. Lesson: pay attention your local culture.
Actually, I quit wearing my purity ring at all after several people in Germany asked me and my grandmother if I was married [so young! (I was 16)]. I was happily blessed with the inability to flirt and to shun stupid crushes. If the ring’s purpose was to remind me to be pure, it was pointless. If it was to show others I was pure, it was failing miserably. So I put it away and never looked back.
If someone isn’t sending you death threats then you aren’t doing something right.
I suppose I should note that I thought of wearing the P. Ring on my right hand when I was 15, after several people in America saw it on my left hand and asked me if I was married. 😛 After the German episode I just gave up on the ring entirely. Purity is important, but it’s not really worth the bother of mistaken impressions. If they can’t tell you’re pure by your behavior (a la Galatians 5:22-23) then how much is your ring-minder really worth?
Thank you for writing a follow-up. There was a lot in the first article that needed clarifying/expanding, and I especially appreciate the notes on “the way our grandparents did it” not guaranteeing anything, as well as not relying on human wisdom.
It was for the second reason mostly that my husband wrote his response, which he left in a comment here before, but I wanted to leave it again, because it’s an issue that separates courtship that’s fundamentally flawed from courtship (or whatever you want to call it) that works, as well as divides in homeschooling circles (or any circle, really) separating legalists from those who understand the grace of God.
For those who are interested, you can read that blog post here.
Your husband’s response was very well done. I really appreciated it.
Kyleigh – you certainly have a wonderful husband. Marriage seems to be such a separator of those two parallel cultures he referenced. Thank God for the blessings we share through salvation by faith and an imputed perfection by the work of His Son. When that grace is real it seems so natural that it would overflow into our relationships to emulate Christ by our own behavior. Regardless of the form of a premarital relationship if these things are the focus the Holy Spirit will sustain.
You’re going to write a book for us, right Thomas?
It depends on how many email subscribers I get of people interested in the book. Those of you interested in book updates can sign up here: http://eepurl.com/01Owv
I would hope if you attempt something like that, you would interact with some of the wealth of stuff that has already been written on this topic by others, especially by women. Most of the observations you make have been made by others too, though maybe outside your circle. All you have to do is google “emotional purity” “purity culture” “broken heart syndrome.” I thought you might appreciate this paper: http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/largerhope/Courtship%20&%20Betrothal%20Essays/B.H.S..htm
Recoveringgrace.org also has some great articles on the topic. http://www.recoveringgrace.org/2011/07/emotionalpurity/
Thank you for a boatload of well-thought-out and well-written words of wisdom! I so appreciate all that you have said and the gentle, wise, loving spirit with which you’ve said it all. I can tell you’ve put a tremendous amount of thought and prayer into this subject, and I salute you for sharing that with others who care to tune in.
As a Christian wife, mom, grandma, and counselor, I have viewed this issue from multiple angles. My own sons were at the end of high school and beginning of college when the IKDG book came out; one was very committed to its principles and the other not. Because we as parents were only on the fringes of the scenario and did not read the book, I had no idea how far reaching its tenets were. Only now–as I read more about this on the Net–am I discovering the seeds of harm that were sown into tender young lives, and I grieve for all of these young people who feel cheated and misled. I will be a better counselor now for having learned how deep the roots of the IKDG movement went with a generation of impressionable young Christians. How sad and ironic that the very young people who most wanted to be pure and holy were the ones most negatively affected!
Again, thank you for giving the rest of us a window through which to view and better understand the cultural currents swirling about this topic.
Peggy, I was so happy to read your response. You and I are the same generation. As I meet and interact with young men and women who have been damaged through this teaching, I try to encourage them. You, as a counselor, have such a wonderful opportunity to do the same, and I’ll be praying for you.
Submitting to authority in obedience to God is never damaging.
Fundamental difficulty with courting is not too much intimacy–even you don’t accuse it of causing fornication–but that it leaves too big a gap between seeing a pretty face and the degree of intimacy (not fornication, except accidentally) that courtship enters. But there are varieties of courtship, as you admit; I kept thinking I was reading generalities about a straw man, even if true in this or that particular case. And varieties of dating; how did one variety become “traditional dating”? And do your suggested tweets express love, or do they clang cymbals?
I suppose I used, and think useful for some but no law for all (Bible tells a variety of stories), what I might call “soft courtship”: I asked her (ex) boyfriend if it was OK with him for me to consider marrying her; then I asked her; within a week I’d asked their parents if it was OK to consider; we (she and I) sat down with Neil Clark Warren’s “Date or Soul Mate?” and talked through some of the lists to see how compatible we were. Somewhere in there “Would you like to consider whether getting married to me would be a good idea?” grew into “To get married, what all do we need?”, tho I don’t remember any particular point at which consideration became official engagement. We agreed easily on no fornication, and each warn the other if getting too close. If doing something similar, adjust details to fit the case.
God hates divorce (Malachi), so if courtship cuts the divorce rate from 50% even to 25%, whatever is traditional these days is worse than courtship. Run away from fornication (I Corinthians); if courtship cuts the fornication rate in a similar way, whatever is traditional these days is worse than courtship. Worse statistically, of course; particular cases may be bad either way.
I’d like to see your evidence that supports your claim that courtship reduces divorce or fornication rates.
Remember correlation is not causation. And I think there are quite a few folk on this thread who would disagree with you based on first hand experience.
Fundamentally flawed is your article, not courting. Whenever people talk about this subject, especially when they talk about pro-dating stance, it tends to be so much about what you can get out of another person and not so much about how you can be a Godly person worth pursuing. And it tends not to be about how you can serve another person but rather it tends to be about making sure *you* get the most out of the deal.
As if it were a product purchase with 30-day money back guarantee and you deserve the best. In such case you might as well advocate cohabitation before marriage. Why even draw the line at all? “Intimately knowing someone” should go a lot deeper than casual, shallow dating with multiple individuals.
And the last paragraph is such an intellectual dishonesty I feel like throwing up reading it. God first, Love first, blah blah blah, then go on and make sure you don’t get a sour deal by going on dating multiple individuals? You don’t even have the definition of “Godly Love” straight.
Besides, what do people do when they go out on a date? Dress up the best they can, act the best they can, do everything “right.” You won’t *know* a person in that kind of shallow pretense.
I guess Joseph in Genesis married a wrong way. Different culture, different time? Thought we were supposed to be “not of the world.”
No wonder so many young singles are confused about what to do when this kind of “advice” is widely spread to tickle their ears, feeding their already-self-focused mind. Pity.
I know right? How dare we try to avoid abusive relationships and try to find someone who won’t divorce us. That’s just selfish.
And there is no way people will get to know each other when they aren’t having to put on a show for each others parents and are constantly being watched. Character is what you are when everyone is looking. Not what you are when no one is watching. The more eyes the more real a person is to themselves.
>> I know right? How dare we try to avoid abusive
>> relationships and try to find someone who won’t
>> divorce us. That’s just selfish.
Yes, it is. Good point. You marry an abusive spouse, you stay married, period. That’s just how covenant works. I know nobody who reads this blog likes to hear this, but it’s true. Who do you think Jesus died for?
The irony is that you won’t find out whether someone is going to abuse you in the future simply by going out on a date with multiple individuals. It takes A LOT more than that in order to truly know someone. And even if you know someone intimately, some people will still betray your expectation. Just look at how often we see big name preachers falling into sexual sins, adultery, etc. and hurting many others in the process. Who would’ve thought they would do anything like that. Yeah, right. Knowing really works.
>> And there is no way people will get to know
>> each other when they aren’t having to put on
>> a show for each others parents and are constantly
>> being watched. Character is what you are when
>> everyone is looking. Not what you are when no one
>> is watching. The more eyes the more real a person
>> is to themselves.
Actually, it’s both. “Dragon father” is one of a few great tests to see if the guy pursuing his daughter has the balls to love her absolutely no matter what cost. The problem is that very few guys have the balls to love someone that deeply even at a very high personal cost. They don’t even have mustard seed worth of faith to believe that God might change his mind if it’s His will, so they are off to find someone else who is easier. Of course girls are not better. So many of them are often obsessed with getting married. It’s all about romance and prince. Quite frankly they deserve it and I have zero sympathy for them.
Yeah. Guys should be 100% sure they want to marry a girl before they ask her out on a first date. If a guy isn’t and isn’t willing to fight past a dragon father then he’s just not good enough for the girl.
You do bring up a good point. Since it’s impossible to know for sure if a guy is abusive before a relationship then there really is no sense in trying to pursue a system that allows you to get to know a guy better. Besides a guy is more likely to show abusive tendencies while a overprotective shotgun wielding dad is breathing down his neck than he is in the intimacy of a one on one date.
No real sense in dating a lot of people. It’s not like hanging out with lots of different kinds guys will let you know more about guys and what’s abusive or not. You can learn all you need to learn about all guys by just allowing one to pursue you and hoping that he’s the one.
Scott C. — You said, “You marry an abusive spouse, you stay married, period. That’s just how covenant works.” WTF!? That is how covenant works between God and us. He loves us. We abuse him. He stays with us. Marriage covenants between two humans are NOT the same. Both people in a marriage have vowed to love the other. Guess what…abuse is the opposite of love! An abusive spouse has already broken the covenant between them, so you have no right to say that the abused spouse must stay and honor it! Please think before you speak, and go look up the word “empathy” because you need some.
“The one” is way overrated as well. Whoever you marry is the one you are supposed to marry regardless of what you actually know about that person or how you feel about him/her. You are committed to one person, and you just make it work no matter what. If he/she abuses you, you *can* separate for a while but never *divorce* that person. Once you are in, you are supposed to stick with your commitment. Sorry, that’s just how it is. People just don’t like/want that, so here we are, making all kinds of excuses based on worldly perspective, and some even write a whole blog to advocate otherwise.
@Joy – Truth is more important than empathy. Do you justify looters in Ferguson MO because their anger seems justified?
>> An abusive spouse has already broken the covenant
>> between them, so you have no right to say that the
>> abused spouse must stay and honor it!
Wrong. Even the exception clause, which is very much debatable, doesn’t include physical abuse as a reason for divorce. And again, the exception clause itself is very debatable, and it is most often used to *encourage* divorce. There is not a single command in the New Testament to divorce anyone for any reasons.
The best way to prevent being trapped in an abusive marriage is to get to know a potential spouse beyond mere dating realm before making the commitment to marry. Involving the whole church, family members and relatives in the process is a big part of it. And, contrary to the belief shared among the majority of this blog’s visitors, you will NOT know that person by going out on a date. The “red flags” are most often seen in non-dating situation, and they are often overlooked when attraction and infatuation take over in the kind of serial dating situations with ulterior motives which this blog post suggests we practice. Foolishness at its best.
@Scott C. — First of all, check your facts about Ferguson. There are first-hand accounts of looters getting back into cars with out-of-state tags. They are not the angry people who are being persecuted there…they are opportunists preying on an unstable situation. So no, I don’t justify what they are doing. The Ferguson community has come together to stop looters from entering stores several times. But of course, you won’t see that video on Fox News.
Secondly, back to divorcing an abuser. You are not citing any scriptures or teachings of Jesus. You are citing man-made doctrines. People can twist scripture to make any doctrine they want, and I come from a church background where they came up with some crazy ones, so that doesn’t carry much weight with me. Jesus never forbids people from divorce. He simply says that if you marry a divorced person, you commit adultery. And in 1 Corinthians 7, when Paul is saying that you should stay married to an unbeliever, he specifically says that it is his own opinion, not God’s command.
And finally, as to your comment that “truth is more important than empathy” — that is your opinion, not an absolute fact. Obviously, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But when I read the accounts of Jesus’ interactions with women, I see him show much empathy. Truth said that the woman caught in adultery should be stoned. Jesus said she was forgiven.
Scott, you remind me more of the Pharisees, than of Jesus. I hope that one day, you can come to know and have a personal relationship with the Savior. The writer of Hebrews tells us that he empathizes with our weaknesses instead of judging us. He is loving and kind and has set me free and kept me close to him when legalistic men have tried to force me to accept their own doctrines and traditions. May he soften your heart.
1) When Paul said “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord:”, he meant that Jesus himself hadn’t said it, NOT that it wasn’t from God. It is revelation from God for all men at all times.
2) When Jesus let the woman go that was caught in adultery he was exactly and precisely following the law (truth), because the law said that you had to have two or three witnesses for a capital crime, and all the witnesses had left.
3) Legalism is not obedience. We are called to obey, and our obedience is one of the fruits of our relationship with Christ.
4) Jesus specifically says that divorce comes from the hardness of hearts. In talking about divorce he says “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” You can’t get more of a command than that on divorce.
Scott C — I would not want my daughter to date a guy who uses “balls” in normal conversation.
Great follow up Thomas! Keep it up! I’m looking forward to your potential book. 🙂
First off let me say, thank you again for another post that was thought provoking and inspired. I appreciate your spirit and your passion to reach out to a hurting community of young people. The first blog post, then the second written by Mary DeMuth has been a wonderful spring board for discussions with my children. (Three of which are adults and two are underage.) In turn, I will certainly share this additional blog post with them as well!
I also grieved for so many that responded to these blog posts, expressing their deep hurt and loneliness. I shook my head at those that seemed determined to read more into your words that you intended. Yet.. in even that, discussion has come forth that is good.
So thank you again for having the courage, in Christ, to speak up and offer advise (not commands) and for encouraging communication between parents and children and between young men and women. Bless you!
Hope you noticed how many responded that had happy courtship experiences.
Yes “L”, of course! We firmly believe that considering all sides of a topic, examining the scriptures & bringing it before the Lord in prayer to be a vital element in coming to a wise decision.
I am glad that you (along with others) feel so strongly about the ‘courting’ movement that you passionately defend it. I wish you much success as you move forward, no matter what position that you hold in this issue. (‘courting’ success story, parent or potential parent).
I will say that through our family study and discussion of this topic we’ve also learned the value of standing firm on the Truth, IN LOVE. Love, does not mean that the truth will be diminished but that compassion is given to those hurting or lost. Love that was displayed in the life of Christ throughout his time here on earth, as found throughout the New Testament.
I appreciate that you made an effort to clarify some of the misunderstandings and poor communication from the first post. Although it is clear that you would make some money I would advise that you not write that book any time soon. BTW, I have not read any of the major courtship model books but I know many people who discuss courtship or who have fully or partially rejected dating and I feel the need to point out to you that your experience that you seem to view as universal is actually still fairly narrow. This is not an insult. Mine and that of many other people is as well. The problematic part of the situation is certain biases that are evident. Between that and the emotionally driven viewpoints and decisions I encourage you to wait for now and maybe consider the project later in a different season of life.
I didn’t see a way to email you. (Sorry I tend to be a bit of a luddite and I often make mistakes while working online.) But I’d be happy to discuss any of a variety of related topics with you if the opportunity were available. 😉
I am inclined to agree with that, as my homeschool experience includes several hundred individuals, and only the half dozen that go to one church (narrowing it down to a pastor that attracts a type) have followed a relaxed courtship model.
Just for the record, Joshua Harris wrote his book at 20, and it is definitely biased and emotionally driven, and tends to take personal anecdotes and make them universals and the lens through which the Bible is interpreted. Since when has a biased perspective ever invalidated anyone’s right to throw their two cents out there? We all have a biased and experience based perspective on everything.
As I mentioned, Christy, I haven’t read that book. I also have not given it any endorsement or credit for being the voice of wisdom or of the entire concept. That right there is part of what is problematic about this approach. I’m sorry to see so many having such an emotional outlet to speak against him mainly through this blog post where the author who leads the way for the angst ridden blame game that they are playing says himself how well he thinks of that other author…not to mention the irony of calling out his errors that you believe he made at that age whilst simultaneously claiming that age, experience and bias are all irrelevant to how, why or when one speaks to the topic. But give how many in the discussion have claimed the name of Christ I would hope to see a very different attitude than that. It would be nice to see the priorities more in line with God’s love and wisdom and a goal to help others have the same focus and succeed at it.
“Move your purity ring to your right hand. A ring on your left ring finger can look like an engagement ring and communicates to honorable men that you are taken. When my sister made this shift, she suddenly had many honorable men asking her out. It was a night and day change. Even as a guy, I wear my purity ring on my right hand.” Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
It’s not speaking against someone to disagree with them, even if you strongly disagree. It is perfectly healthy for the Church to debate and discuss how to live righteously, and to disagree with brothers and sisters in the faith. Saying I think Joshua Harris popularized some terrible ideas about relationships and biblical interpretation is a far cry from saying I think Joshua Harris is a terrible Christian. If everyone always agreed (or pretended to agree) in the name of Christian unity and love, no one would ever grow or change or be challenged in the places they are wrong. Christians would still advocate slavery and believe “the heathen” weren’t created in the image of God like the civilized white people.
No one is going to get things 100% right, but discussion is a good thing, especially considering the level of hurt some people have experienced under oppressive courtship models. I feel like some people are saying, because I have positive experiences, courtship isn’t a problem. That’s like saying, because I don’t notice racism, it doesn’t exist in America. Well, there are millions of people that beg to differ. Does the fact that their stories are emotionally charged and based on personal experience invalidate their observations? I don’t think so. Are they “biased”? Of course, but no more so than anyone else is in the other direction. Objectivity is a modernist myth.
I only have three questions: Where’s the Bible in all this?
Why do you write so authoritatively on what God intends or feels for a person, especially with no Biblical backup for your statements?
Why have you come at this from the cause and response (or problem and solution, if you prefer) standpoint, than from a Biblical, Sin and Salvation based standpoint? Is not the word of God clear on at least a few of the ways God desires for us to live our lives in a godly manner?
I’m not entirely sure what’s more hilarious. Your claim that the author never talked about biblical concepts in his OP or the fact that you didn’t bring up any biblical concepts or references of your own to refute his argument.
Ignoring someone’s biblical references and trying to refute his non lack of biblical references with your own lack of biblical references is not good arguing.
Hannah, I appreciate that you want to do as the Bible says. As has already been pointed out though, you have not exactly used the Bible to refute anything either.
What I would like to point out though is that the Bible leaves a lot of room for liberty and wisdom in this area. It is easy to want a self help manual for how to find a mate, but the Bible doesn’t do that. It tells us what is right and wrong and within that, there is a lot of room for Christian liberty. With liberty though comes responsibility.
The reason why the article doesn’t give you a lot of “chapter and verse” response is because it simply doesn’t exist for this topic.
That’s four questions.
@ Hannah –
>> Where’s the Bible in all this?
Nowhere. The blog post is a hogwash causing a massive confusion among already confused singles.
>> Why do you write so authoritatively
>> on what God intends or feels for a person,
>> especially with no Biblical backup for
>> your statements?
Because he is utterly confused about the subject and yet he doesn’t even know it. There is no Biblical backup for his statement because his stance has no Biblical legs and it’s impossible for him to produce it.
>> Why have you come at this from the cause
>> and response (or problem and solution, if you prefer)
>> standpoint, than from a Biblical, Sin and Salvation
>> based standpoint? Is not the word of God clear on
>> at least a few of the ways God desires for us to
>> live our lives in a godly manner?
Most likely it is because he absorbs way too much worldly perspectives, pollutes his mind in the process and utterly lacks biblical discernment.
I wouldn’t blame him. He is just another victim of modern American Christianity.
Friend, do hear yourself?
The language and anger is very evident in this last post.
This is supposed to be an instructive, kind, and compassionate conversation. If you cannot at least keep it kind, then you need to get off the keyboard.
Additionally, before you start bashing his apparent lack of “Biblical legs”, you need to make sure you’re actually standing on some (1 Cor 10:12).
I’m not trying to anger you, friend, I just want you to consider that you’re not being entirely fair. The Scriptures do not say anything directly regarding “dating” being evil or “arranged marriage” being the one way to a happy union or “courtship” as the perfect system. We have to use some wisdom here. Let us then pray for God’s wisdom, rather than brutally judge and critique His children. If he is your brother in Christ, then you should treat him as such, right?
Please be careful, friend. I sense some bitterness and anger in your comments which is not befitting a son of the King of Kings. Be careful how and what you preach. Once it’s out there, there’s no taking it back.
Thank you for the insight you showed. I am currently in a courting relationship and providentially it is going well (no dragon-father), but your words provided some appreciated understanding.
It is my prayer that God grants wisdom to all people in this stage of life who strive to honor Him with their lives and relationships, and that (as only He can) your articles will be used and considered carefully by all, to the ultimate benefit of many and to the furtherance of His Kingdom and Glory.
Again, thank you for sharing these articles.
In His service,
Scott, you are way out of bounds biblically. I hope you don’t witness to non-Christians with this attitude.
Thank you for writing the first article. Thank you for writing the second article.
Thank you for putting a voice to the things that have gone on in the homeschool community as “God’s Only Way” that he never mandated.
My heart breaks for the women who found themselves in abusive relationships, and then divorced – because that could have been me.
The one and only young man who showed any interest in me had cross-over behavior, and I believe was struggling with gay tendencies. At the end he too was quite cruel to me, telling me no-one would ever want to marry me and so on. The only good thing about it I suppose was that I held on to the fact that I was first and foremost following God, and I wouldn’t disobey God to please that man. Unfortunately it had a severe effect on me – in combination with my parents marriage breaking up and a few other problems, my health caved in at 22, in every way, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Glad to say that God never abandon me while everyone else did, but it scares me to see what could have been me.
To the women who have gone through that pain, I want to encourage you that God does still love you, even when it seems like he doesn’t. And your value isn’t determined by your works. It’s determined by what God did for you – at the cross. xx L
The Bible is clear that we should honor one another, put each other’s interests above our own, bear one another’s burdens, be honest, and trustworthy, and faithful. Nothing about traditional dating makes it impossible to live out the biblical commands about how we are to relate to others. I think the author is saying that the system imposed by legalistic courtship typically results in hurting people and relationships, and therefore is flawed. Presumably, God doesn’t want his children going around making each other miserable.
PS. I would totally read your book Thomas. You’re a fantastic writer.
Doug Wilson makes some contributions to this conversation here, specifically interacting with the original essay on the flaws of courtship as Thomas presents them:
It seems to me Doug didn’t really address any of the valid criticisms. He just whined about the lack of divorce statistics and asserted that it was a good and noble thing he rejected fourteen suitors. It is interesting what counts as “interacting” in some people’s worlds.
I’m confused why the 34 year old man should ask for permission from the father to marry the 34 year old woman. Shouldn’t he just ask for his blessing? Or even better, shouldn’t the couple sit down with both parents and ask both for their blessings? Either the father controls the woman or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, why hearken back to the archaic tradition of men negotiating a property exchange? Is it just to appease a certain kind of father who believes that tradition is necessary or do you really think that is the appropriate and best way to go? I was tracking with you on most stuff, except that point seems inconsistent to me.
You forget. All women are property who must be controlled and owned by a man. If a guy where to marry a girl without the father’s permission that’d be stealing. You act like the bible says that before God there is no jew, greek, slave, free, man or woman. Or that before we marry we leave our father and our home.
Seriously though I think if you press the author he’ll probably say that you’re supposed to ask for the parent’s blessing. Not permission. If parents don’t give you their blessing that may certainly be a sign that you should rethink marriage at that time but it certainly doesn’t disqualify you from marriage.
Because God put the father in authority (not ownership, like the sarcastic David is saying). He is responsible to guide and help his sons and daughters.
The wisdom and grace you show in this post (and the previous one on this topic) is profound and much-needed. I finally admitted to myself last Autumn – at age 28 – just how flawed the system was. God in his goodness has allowed a wonderful relationship into my life. Keep talking about this. Keep spreading the word. God bless you!!
“Getting parental approval to start makes things too intense too quickly. Getting permission to enter a relationship whose purpose is marriage, before getting to know the girl, is like stepping on the gas while also stepping on the brakes. That is not a healthy way to start a relationship.”
I think you are being misleading here. A guy doesn’t meet a cute girl Monday, and by Friday ask the dad to court his daughter. That’s why the guy shouldn’t let his feelings known upfront to the girl, so they can be “just” friends and get to each other better over time. After being just friends, the guy has had time to get to know the girl (and her family) well enough to know if he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. Only then does he ask to court the daughter. That’s how it works!
Actually, Marmeeof6, I actually know girls (grown women now) who have been convinced that the extreme scenario you suggested (as ridiculous as it sounds) is how things will really work; girls so afraid of “getting too close” to any guy that they quite literally have no guy friends. Their fear is that a guy might develop an attachment that they weren’t ready to reciprocate. But because they were so afraid of guys, they never got to know any. Thus they never were ready to reciprocate. And I believe it is to these girls and their well-meaning parents to whom the author of this post was referring when he wrote that paragraph.
From my own experience, I was best friends with my husband for a whole year before he discovered that he loved me. He still asked my dad’s blessing for both the relationship and later the marriage. But I had become his friend first, which meant a LOT of talking together, something these women refuse to do. The danger is with young men or women who are so afraid of becoming romantically entangled that they won’t even risk a casual friendship unless there is an intent of marriage.
I’m afraid that isn’t how it works. Girls and guys aren’t allowed to hang out together alone in most christian circles. Guys with guys, Girls with girls I’ve heard it said countless times. The very phrase turns my stomach. There is no mechanic in christian culture to allow for the “just friends” part of the romance. The part between “I know you exist” and “I want to marry you. Lets court/get engaged” and so there is this huge jump in the level of commitment that no one really wants to do.
This. My (well meaning) parents caused massive drama in my post-homeschool college life by impressing upon me that guys and girls cannot be “just friends” and that common sense mandated physical distance between myself and my male coworkers. They expect me to get married but I don’t think they considered how I’d find a guy if I was terrified of all men. Thank God for caring teachers who to took the time to point out that differing opinions on this existed within the Christian community and that guys and girls can work side by side without spontaneously smooching on the office sofa.
Want a good courtship scenario? Here’s what you do, fellas. Get up in the morning, good and early. Don’t shower, shave or comb your hair. If you’re reasonably decent, don’t change. Head over to the girl’s house before she wakes up. Walk into her room and sit down on the bed. When she wakes up (probably startled), you say, “This is what you are going to wake up to every day of your life from now on if you marry me. Can you handle it?” If she says yes, take her to the altar.
Yeah! Tell those women you ain’t going to change or improve yourself for nothing so she best get used to it. That’s totally God honoring.
Did I neglect to mention the likelihood that she probably won’t be looking her best at that point either?
I think this is wrong and I am not sure why the writer feels this way. Do you read the bible? Are you saying that the way that they did things regarding marriage and the so called “courtship process” is wrong? I think that courtship is the right way to go…a daughter is under her fathers headship until she is married so I think that having the father involved in these decisions is good. The whole idea that people don’t agree with courtship is ridiculous especially if they are Christian. Are you going to say no to the husband(Messiah) that God( your father) has chosen for you? I don’t think we chose Messiah he chose us first as he loved us first! If people would just look in the bible and actually read and believe it then they would understand and see a lot more of why and how we should conduct our lives as followers of Messiah. I think that “American” culture has gotten into too many Christians lives and laxed their belief.
The rules for submission and headship are only for marriage. The bible says that CHILDREN should obey their parents. The command for everyone is to honor them, which is entirely different. You van honor your parents and still disagree with them. Your husband as Messiah and Father as God is extrabiblical and too direct of a parallel for the image of marriage. Your father is your loving leader until you are an adult. Please search the scriptures for yourself on this, omitting any cultural practices of the time. (This would allow for you to be one of many wives, among other problems) If you don’t change your mind, then please allow for people who disagree to still be Christians, loved and accepted by God, as you are.
I’ve studied the Bible quite a bit and never seen it tortured quite so creatively as in some conservative home school circles. Jesus is not my fiance and the Father is not my Heavenly Father-in-law. The Church Universal is the Bride, it doesn’t describe any one believers personal relationship with Jesus. He is our brother and King.
We are never called to appropriate the culture of biblical times (either ancient Hebrew or early church Greek/Roman/Asian/Second temple Jewish) as the only right and best way of doing cultural things like finding a spouse. I have no plans of putting my daughters in a tent and insisting they become shepherdesses like Rebekkah, so why should I follow that culture’s marriage customs? We are supposed to contextualize the Gospel in our own day and age and live righteous and attractive lives among in our own people.
There is nothing inherently sinful about being culturally American. The Gospel brings restoration and redemption to American culture in our generation the same way it has to countless other cultures and generations. All cultures have their unique flavors that God in his sovereignty can use for his glory. American values of independence and equality are positive things in the lives of sanctified people.
No, the father is God’s delegated authority until the daughter is married. Please don’t teach rebellion.
I understand how one might want to resist something that sounds so biblical and pure as courtship. However, I think it’s unfair to star judging someone’s relationship with The Lord based on how they feel on this issue that is not a fundamental of the Christian faith. As the author explained on his first article on the subject, even defining courtship brings a whole host of issues (even amongst proponents of courtship). So I would ask you to define in your words what courtship is.
I agree when you say: “I think that having the father involved in these decisions is good”. Now it comes down to how much involvement is there. As explained by the author, parents’ roles change as their children mature, and it’s important to have a right balance of such involvement. Parents should (ideally) be in the loop of what’s happening in their children’s lives, but ultimately it is the child’s decisions that defines him or her. Of course the decision making role should be tipped more towards the parents when their children are young (middle school/some high school).
Lastly I want to reiterate that we can follow Christ without having to follow a courtship model. Jesus wants us to love Him and love people. Can we meet people with the hopes of someday getting married (call it dating, courtship, fishing, arranged marriage, etc.) while loving God and people? Yes we can! One way we can check if our individual system follows the two greatest commandments is to look at the aftermath. If courtship has caused such heartbreak as presented by the author, then clearly something needs to change.
wow. I liked the original post, with a few concerns about how it could be interpreted. With this list added to it, I could whole-heartedly recommend it as sensible, biblical, logical and reasonable as well as considerate and IMO spot-on the money! Thanks for taking the time to answer some of these responses!
I hope all the parents who read this really think about the seriousness of giving your adult child freedom. Differentiating from your parents is an extremely important step in the maturing process. I homeschool and have seen many homeschooling or sheltered, this is not always the same group, young adults that don’t have an independent thought or opinion. They parrot every good thing they ever heard, even if it means contradicting themselves. They are blown about by every wind because they have never separated from their parents. You are hamstringing your child if you allow this to happen, leaving them handicapped. This invites predators who would love to be the next person to run their lives. Please read about bonding and separating. Henry Cloud is a great Christian resource.
Amen. I’m going to have all my high schoolers read Boundaries in Dating by Cloud and Townsend. They wrote it because they met so many unhappy, lonely singles who had “kissed dating good-bye” at their boundaries workshops, and so they wrote the book to address some of the things they kept seeing and hearing about. It is excellent.
>> They wrote it because they met so many
>> unhappy, lonely singles who had “kissed
>> dating good-bye” at their boundaries workshops…
They are unhappy because they are not truly saved and satisfied by their relationship with God in the first place. Their god is dating and mating. They need to hear the Gospel, repent and believe. No amount of dating workshop would fix that problem.
So you would allow your daughter to date a gangster, ungodly boy whose sole purpose to date is to be physical with your daughter, and so on, because she has adult child freedom. Who cares it’s an unwise choice, none of your business, right? Bonding and separating. Love them just the way they are! Let your kids explore the world and experiment with new things because time is changing. Blah blah blah.
The irony is that we’ve already tried everything you described since decades ago. We deserve what we’ve got as a society. Pity.
Once my daughter is an adult, letting her or not letting her date is not an option. I can plead with her, advise her, but I can’t prevent her from dating . If she wants my opinion she asks for it. If she doesn’t, then something is wrong with me or her or our relationship but a person over 18 has to be doing what you want her to do out of relationship or control or abuse. I hope mine will always seek out my opinion out of our good relationship. So far, so good. Two great husband’s that we didn’t choose but fully approved because our daughters love Jesus so they chose men who love Jesus. Not because they obeyed us. Daughters raised in good relationship are going to send your worst case- scenario guy packing.
Boundaries workshops aren’t dating workshops, they’re about being a healthy person. And Cloud and Townsend are contracted by churches and Christian non-profits all over the world to work with ministry leaders and employees. They are Christian counselors with great reputations. I am truly saved and satisfied in my relationship with God, but my husband and I have benefited immensely from professional Christian counseling. It is very narrow-minded to assume that biblically grounded principles of psychology are of no use to Christians.
PREACH IT Romelle!! Yes YES YES! “Daughters raised in good relationship are going to send your worst case- scenario guy packing.” Amen and AMEN!
Not giving freedom to adults is kinda the definition of slavery… What moral right do parents have to take away rights from other adults? This is scary dangerous talk you speak of and you’re scaring me O_o
This is a great point! Differentiating is not fun, but it is necessary. After a child passes through this developmental phase at some point they return to the parent. We have to let them grow up or we may see consequences.