Friday, November 4, 2011

Dating vs. Courtship

A friend asked me for my opinion regarding dating verses courtship.  Here are some Biblical principles I quickly wrote regarding relationships.  I don't have all the answers I want yet.  I do know that dating as our generation has defined it is broken.  For some people courting and dating are one and the same, so they should be defined.

According to Wikipedia under the definition of "Courtship" I found the following interesting points:

"Courtship is the period in a couple's relationship which precedes their engagement and marriage, or establishment of an agreed relationship of a more enduring kind. In courtship, a couple get to know each other and decide if there will be an engagement or other such agreement.

"In earlier 1800s, young adults were expected to court with the intention of finding a marriage partner, rather than for social reasons. In America, in the 1820s, the phrase 'date' was most closely associated with prostitution. However, by the Jazz Age of the 1920s, dating for fun was becoming a cultural expectation, and by the 1930s, it was assumed that any popular young person would have lots of dates. This form of dating, though, was usually chaster than is seen today, since pre-marital sex was not considered the norm."

So, in taking in account their history and their usual current usages, I understand the generally accepted meanings of the words "court" and "date" to imply the following.  Court seems to be with a more serious commitment in mind.  Date usually seems to be for social fun and may or may not end up with a committed type of attitude.  And among the many of the "Christian" youths that we have known, in a big part dating seems to be for giving myself pleasures at the expense of my special friend with the high hopes that all will end well.  That is how I will use these words here.  But whether we consider ourselves pro-dating or pro-courting, we must adhere to Biblical principles.

1.)  We must first of all be concerned with the reality of who we are as a people. 
As Christians, we do not belong to ourselves.  In the very context of sexual purity and impurity God tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20,
"What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." 
I cannot do just anything I want.  With my body, I must do all to the glory of He who bought me, for He owns me, not I myself.

2.)  We must answer to someone -- our Lord and King.
"In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes."  (Judges 21:25)
But we DO have a King, and we cannot do what just seems right or feels good.  Our King tells us what to do in Scripture.  But most young people aren't even trying to find out and do what Scripture teaches here in our dating, therefore...
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." (Hosea 4:6) 
Our couples and their resultant marriages are destroyed for a lack of knowledge.  The very things the young dating couples are doing right now WILL impact their marriages later.
So the entirety of our lives (including our relationships) must be submitted to the revealed will of God.  (God reveals His will in Biblical principles.)

3.)  Modern Recreationally Motivated Dating (dating just for fun) is Heretical not Scriptural.
It's not even mentioned in Scripture and hardly even found in all of history until our modern history.  It is motivated by a godless society based on pleasing the flesh rather than basing their actions on the Word of God. 
Why would people date without any intention of marrying?
- To satisfy the lust of the flesh... either through immorality or entertainment.
- To satisfy heartfelt passions, that may be Biblical, but not seeking them in God's way.  (ie. wanting to enter into a relationship that requires no lifelong commitment whatsoever.  So that you can take off at anytime.)
None of this reflects Scriptural principles, so it must be disregarded as such. 

4.)  The defraud commandment.
Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:
That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.
For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.  (1 Thessalonians 4:5-7)
One of the meanings of "defraud" here is that of arousing "the lust of concupiscence" or arousing the other's "passionate desire."  Or we could say that defraud here means to create the desire in someone for that which you cannot lawfully fulfill.  This happens all the time with couples getting off alone on a date to arouse desires in each other that should not be fostered nor can they be lawfully fulfilled.  That is why it's not wise for couples of the opposite sex be alone unless they are married or in special circumstances of which they are safe and accountable.  (such as a drive together to church, etc.)  Because hormones, chemistry, emotions, attraction (or whatever you might wish to call it) between the opposite sexes are natural and unavoidable, but should not be fed nor allowed to blossom until they are lawful.  To purposely sexually arouse someone other than your spouse is to defraud them and is denounced by God in Scripture.  And to purposely cause someone to have an emotional affair with you is also playing with fire.  For God promises to avenge such behavior.  And many times it ends with dysfunctional marriages, broken homes, and broken hearts. 

5.)  The principle of treating the young ladies as our sisters.
1 Timothy 5:2 teaches us that our conduct with the younger women is to be as with sisters and with all purity.  Young men, that means not touching them in inappropriate ways.  That means having nothing but pure motives with them.  That means not arousing in them desires which would be sinful to fulfill.  That means treating them as you would want the men of the world to treat your little sister.  Period.

6.)  Paul told young Timothy (and us) to flee youthful lusts.
In many points we are told to "wrestle," but when it comes to lusts we are told to "flee."  (A side point here: The more you protect your eyes, men, the more you can passionately love and be satisfied with one woman.  Ladies, that is why modest clothes are important.  And that is why there must be a carefulness between the courting couple.)   Why does God say to flee lusts?  You will not be able to be in a relationship with a person of the opposite sex and be ALONE with him/her for an extended length of time without falling.  Those who have tried it know I am telling the truth.  And remember that "falling" comes a long time before the world says it does.  Biblically, one can't be strong enough, Godly enough, or disciplined enough to do something that God already told you not to do.  Don't be alone with a person of the opposite sex where you can be in a position to compromise yourself... because it will likely happen if you stay there long enough. 
I never have forgotten an illustration by Paul Washer that I heard months ago; it goes like this:
I am a married man.  Imagine that you came to a hotel suite, and you found me alone with a woman other than my wife.  I answer the door and say, "Come in, Jane and I here were just making cookies." 
You would say, "You can't do that!"
"Why not?" I ask, "We weren't doing anything wrong."
"It's just wrong.  You can't be alone with someone of the opposite sex who isn't your wife.  There are too many dangers!"
Exactly.  And we encourage and condone that with young people in the dating game.  I am a married man.  A man with a dear wife and precious children who I value and would never want to lose.  I am a man with much responsibility, I am responsible for various churches.  I answer to a lot of people, pastors, and to supporters.  This is going to make me want to be so much more careful to not fall.  How much more careful (than any adolescent) would I be alone with a woman who is not my wife!  But with adolescents who have less experience, less wisdom, less discipline, and much less to lose than I have to lose, we send them off to be alone for hours at a time with someone of the opposite sex.  And we expect them not to fall morally?  With so much less to lose than us adults who would never think of being alone with women of the opposite sex?

This is why I feel like dating as it is commonly defined is unwise, unScriptural, and dangerous.  Courting as it is commonly defined seems to be the only other safe option I know of in our culture.  As to how courtship should be practiced Scripturally, I am still open to answers.  I did find helpful and interesting modern day love story shared by Marrianne Brown of her and Philip's courtship and marriage.  It seemed to be Biblical and defined both dating and courtship in a wholesome and seemingly Biblical way.  Here is a selection on her blog that I found intriguing and something I'd like to learn more about:

"One of those Wednesday evenings when we pulled into my driveway, Philip turned off the car and turned to me. It was in that conversation that Philip laid out his ideas of how relationships progressed. Stage #1 Friendship - This was the very basis for a relationship, basic information, finding if there were shared goals and ideas, finding out their commitment to God and His Word. Asking, "Is this person even a possible candidate for a wife/husband? If there was friendship and compatibility of goals and ideas and commitment to Christ then it was possible to progress to Stage #2 - Dating - sharing things that you wouldn't share on a friendship level, further probing of personal philosophies and background, examining theological ideas further. Deciding yes, this person is a possible life partner which would lead to Stage #3 - Courtship - This person has the characteristics of a life partner but there are some things that need to be talked about that are just not appropriate at level #2 - finances, any previous sin that would affect the relationship, all those "sticky" things that are "where the rubber meets the road". If the relationship withstands those scrutinies then the next step would be Stage #4 - Engagement - the actual commitment to marry this person, premarital counseling, and preparing for Stage #5 - Marriage.
That Wednesday evening Philip shared that we were in Stage #1 and he was praying about how to progress. That was one of the things I appreciated about him - I never had to guess about where we were at or how he was viewing the relationship. He'd had many years to figure out how to avoid some of the common pitfalls of romantic relationships and it sure saved me a lot of anxiousness and fear!"    (From "Our Story - Part Six" )  With the definition of dating given here, I can agree with dating.    

Credit belongs to Paul Washer for a lot of what I shared here.  And credit to my professor Dr. Allan P. Brown for his teaching on 1 Thessalonians 4:5-7.   - Phillip


Daryl Hausman said...

Thank you for posting this! I think it is something that we (as youth) need to hear about!!!
Love you all,

The Dickinsons said...

Thank you, Natasha. We love and miss you all.
U. Phillip

Anonymous said...


Steve~N~Angela said...

This topic is very much NEEDED to be heard more often. I was so pleased to find it, as this is the model we have set with Gods help and by HIS grace for our family. Thanks for sharing!


The Dickinsons said...


You're welcome! May God keep our children pure and holy.


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