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Firm Foundations for Marriage – Dating vs. Courtship


June 21, 2013 by heatherkay


(Free Digital Photos) This is part 2 in a series of posts on marriage.  You can see part one here.

Laying the foundations for a good marriage start when the relationship starts.  There is a lot of debate in Christian circles, particularly Christian home schooling circles about dating verses courtship.  Recently a friend asked my husband and I where we stand on the subject, after having courted ourselves, but now having a son (out of the home) who dated.

257800_2050277413231_1133349386_2370067_583611_oSomeday I will share my husband’s and my story more fully, but for now I will share just a bit.  At the time we courted, we knew of NO ONE that had done it that way.  We got our hands on a photocopied manual called Dating vs. Courtship by Paul Jehle, which has now been made into a book.  A group of youth that we were a part of decided to go through this together as well as reading Passion and Purity by Elizabeth Elliot.  We bought into this philosophy wholeheartedly.  No one had to force it on us.  No one sat down and laid out the rules for us.  It was deeply in our hearts.

As the concept of courtship spread throughout Christian circles, the debate grew hot.  It is often pointed out that modern dating has a relatively short history.  But does its short history make it wrong?  A more important question is, “What is the fruit of the modern dating pattern?”

There are many problems with “dating” as we know it.  Trying on relationships like they were a piece of clothing sets up a pattern that can and does lead to divorce.  When relationships are based on what the other person can do for you or how they make you feel, rather than long term commitment, you learn to leave the relationship as soon as it doesn’t “work for you” any more.

Not only that, entering into serious relationships where a lot of time is spent alone before one is ready for marriage sets you up for sexual sin.  Only about 3% wait to have sex until marriage. (1)  Many think it is impossible to wait until marriage to have sex.  But let’s be very clear:  the Bible demands sexual purity until marriage.  Sex outside of marriage is NOT the unforgivable sin, but it is sin.  (Sexual purity includes avoiding all forms of fornication.)

There are also problems with courtship, but they are of a very different nature.  I have heard many, many teachings on courtship and the biggest problem I see is that often the focus is on “rules.”  What is courtship?  Some have a long list of what it is and isn’t.   Frankly, I think that these teachings miss the most important point.  You can insist that your child “court” rather than date,  but where is his or her heart?  If you focus on rules, your child might comply, but there is still likely to be very bad fruit.

At the very least, a child that makes it through courtship and gets married without really embracing the principles will very likely end up resenting his parents.  Whatever is in the heart will show up eventually.  Other bad fruit may include self righteousness and Phariseeism.  Pride and Prudishness.


(Free Digital Photos)  At the heart of building a firm foundation for marriage is having God at the center of the relationship.  If the desire of the heart is to please and glorify God, then the marriage is off to a good start.  Marriage is hard work and takes dying to self to really succeed.  This can only be done through the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.

I still believe that courtship is the “ideal” way to start a relationship.  By that I mean, waiting to enter a relationship until one is old enough and ready to enter into marriage, have parental blessing if possible, staying sexually pure, putting God first and not spending a lot of time alone in private.  There might be other recommendations I would give my children, but ultimately I am most concerned about the couple’s heart posture and not a whole bunch of rules that must be followed.

Can dating still work?  Yes, I do believe that modified versions of dating can bring a couple together in a godly manner.  Not every young person has Christian parents to help guide and direct their relationship, nor open their home as a safe place to get to know one another.  Not every Christian couple even knows about the possibility of courtship.

Here are a few really great resources that I would highly recommend:

I Kissed Dating Goodbye
by Joshua Harris

Dating Vs. Courtship
by Paul Jehle

Her Hand in Marriage: Biblical Courtship in the Modern World
by Douglas Wilson

Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control
by Elizabeth Elliot

What He Must Be: …If He Wants to Marry My Daughter
by Voddie Baucham

Mark Driscoll on Dating (YouTube)  He shares excellent principles for how dating can done in a God glorifying manner. 

What are your thoughts about dating and courtship? (Be nice!!!)

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  1. The concept of dating and courtship in this recent generations of ours are way to different than before. It looks like the generation nowadays are so impulsive that they would jump into someone they just met! Sad but it’s a fact!
    Christian and Single recently posted…Men Want to Be NeededMy Profile

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