Over the past decade, or so, It's become popular in modern churches to use the concept of courtship for young Christians to select a spouse. Many have touted this as the true Biblical ideal for young men and women. The idea of dating multiple people until you find the one you want to marry is often considered sinful or, at least, undesirable. Needless to say, I've only heard parents talking like this, while their teenage children are happily playing the field. This article compares courtship and dating with the Biblical traditions so we can get a grasp on what were asking our children to do and what God is asking of us.
The Ideal Of Courtship: Recently, someone told me her pastor had said she was ready to begin courting and that she should pray for God to reveal to her who she was to marry. She was very excited that he (the pastor) had finally given his permission. She then explained that they did not date, but preferred the Biblical ideal of courtship. For those of you who are wondering, no pastor can speak for God with respect to someone else's timing or method of selecting the mate God has chosen for them. But, taking the cult stuff out, what about courtship? Courtship is still practiced in some cultures, but the more developed world has opted for dating as the preferred method of choosing a spouse. Here's the courtship concept: With permission of the parents, a young man and woman enter into an exclusive relationship where they see each other (usually under supervision) for a specified period of time to investigate the possibility of marriage. Under the courtship concept, no one "dates" anyone without the agreed-upon intent of marriage. This custom has worked fairly well in underdeveloped countries where education is limited and culture, religion and ethnicity aren't mixed. Still, the idea that courtship is the Biblical ideal is a bit of a stretch.
The Biblical Ideal: The Bible is silent on dating and courtship. Were left to find clues from the traditions and customs of the people recorded in the Bible. The four or so thousand years covered by Scripture is a pretty wide swath of history and culture for anyone to nail down THE correct practice, but we can discuss some of the practices and rules set down and see if they bear any resemblance to modern ideas. First off, marriages were arranged by the families, either by negotiation or strict instruction. The bride and groom could make requests but had no right to decide on their own. Neither dating nor courtship are Biblical in that respect. Usually the groom was mature (around age 30) and the bride was beginning her child-bearing years (around age 14-16), so he could support her while she bore his children…as many as possible. Of course, now, we have a name other than "fianc?" for a 30 year-old man seeking romantic involvement with a 14 year-old girl. The couple was considered legally married upon engagement. Any sexual relations with another afterward was considered adultery. Furthermore, the families performed the marriage ceremonies, as such, and the religious leaders were merely there as honored guests…not to officiate. Sorry, ministers, but I'm gonna tell them! The church wedding ceremony, as we practice it, is not Biblical. If anyone doubts this, please send me the Scripture references backing your position. In Biblical days, if a couple had sex (with or without a ceremony), they were considered married in the eyes of God and man. In fact, if a virgin was raped by a stranger, they were considered married. There's the Biblical ideal! Try those out on your teenagers and see how obedient they'll be.
Where does dating fit in? It only fits in when society has so changed that it is no longer acceptable for ones parents to choose their mate…like here and now. Most people don't realize that the Bible never says what the proper method is to select a spouse, but accurately reports the social norms at the time the books were written. Could it be that God, in His wisdom, knew different cultures existed and that things were going to change and so, didn't want to tie His people down? Jesus said the whole Law and Prophets hangs on two commandments…1-love God…2-love your neighbor…1-laws of God…2-laws of society. Here is where the Bible is fully in line with both courtship and dating and any other cultural norm. As an expression of love for our neighbors, we are to live within the legal and cultural norms of the society were in, unless those norms contradict Gods direction in His Word. So, until we find a Scripture that states otherwise, dating and courtship are both valid and approved by God.
Hey, Christians! If you want to take the religious mumbo-jumbo out of Christianity, just get your answers through the Bible. Once you're reading it for yourself, no one can tell you it says something that it doesn't say. As for you cult leaders who think you're leading a Christian church by lording it over the private lives of Christians, I pray the Holy Spirit open their eyes and yours.
Article Written by Glen Williams
Glen Williams is Webmaster at http://www.web-church.com and CEO of E-Home Fellowship (EHF), Inc. He is an ordained minister who has been active in Christian ministry since 1989, counseling and helping people live in Christ. You can comment on his articles at Web-Church Christian Forums.