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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Dr. Tom Barrett
Bio: Dr. Tom Barrett
Date:  June 5, 2006
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Revisiting Courtship

Most people today think that dating is a practical way to choose a mate. That is because dating is all we have ever known. But dating is an invention of the twentieth century. It is an experiment gone bad. Witness the dramatic rise of divorce rate to 50% since dating became the norm. Dating is not preparation for marriage; it is preparation for divorce.

Most people today think that dating is a practical way to choose a mate. That is because dating is all we have ever known. But dating is an invention of the twentieth century. It is an experiment gone bad. Witness the dramatic rise of divorce rate to 50% since dating became the norm. Dating is not preparation for marriage; it is preparation for divorce.

But what alternative is there for those of us who do not wish to see our children and grandchildren suffer the pain of divorce? Courtship. Sound old-fashioned? Staying married is old-fashioned these days, but I'd like to see a lot more of it. Remaining virgins until marriage is old-fashioned, too, but the huge increase in unmarried pregnancies and the rise in sexually transmitted diseases makes sensible people long for a little bit of "old-fashioned."

Surprisingly, there is a small but very strong movement among caring parents today to influence their children toward courting rather than dating. It is certainly worth a look.

Let me give you a very brief history of courtship and dating. In ancient times almost all marriages were arranged. The parents of both the boy and the girl decided that they would marry. Sometimes the first time they met was on their wedding day. Not terribly romantic.

In medieval times, money or status were important factors in marriage choices. Dowry's were paid by the fathers of girls to the family of the boy marrying them. Aristocratic and wealthy families used marriage alliances to strengthen ties between tribes, nations or businesses. Not a lot of romance going on there, either.

In early America, marriage was strongly encouraged. Bachelor's were often harassed, fined or run out of town. Singleness was seen as a sign of laziness. Young people spent nearly a decade choosing a marriage partner. They would meet in church, the neighborhood and at home. The young people's parents had a lot to say about whom their children spent time with, and who they married. This was known as courtship.

All this changed in the "Roaring Twenties." Have you ever wondered why the 1920's were called "Roaring"? In the 1920's, the term "Roaring" meant "Outrageous". One of the main reasons this period was considered "outrageous" was that girls started dating boys without parental consent.

During this time "Rating and Dating" became popular among college girls. This involved "rating" boys on their looks, wealth, and the presents they gave girls. Petting parties were invented. The advent of automobiles gave young people more privacy and thus more opportunity for promiscuity.

But the worst outcome of this time was that dating & courtship became separate activities. Dating was something young people did for fun. They weren't concerned with whether their date might be a possible mate. When they finally decided to "settle down," they might initiate courtship. Unfortunately, for many the dating years resulted in hasty marriages or pregnancy, and courtship was lost in the shuffle.

Let's look at some statistics that are a direct result of the shift from courtship to dating:

Some parents are totally amoral, so they find it amusing when their children lose their virginity. But I believe that most parents still believe what the Bible teaches: that sex is something that should be reserved for the marriage bed. Look at what the dating revolution has done to our young people:

You read that last statement correctly. Most young people today don't even think "going steady" (much less engagement) is a requirement for jumping into bed with someone they hardly know. It used to be, "It's OK because we love each other." Now as long as a young person "likes" someone (even if they've only liked them for 30 minutes) it's OK to risk sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy, not to mention their eternal soul, by sleeping with them.

So what's the answer? America needs to revisit courtship. Allow me to share some Scriptures that lay the foundation for courtship as a safe way to help your child choose a mate to whom they will stay married.

"Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you." - Deuteronomy 5:16

"Children, obey your parents in all things: For this is well pleasing unto the Lord." - Colossians 3:20

"Give husbands to your daughters and wives to your sons." - Jeremiah 29:6

Old-fashioned ideas? Sure, as old-fashioned as the Bible itself. But it works. I could introduce you to hundreds of families where the children listed to the wise counsel of their parents, married well, and have blessed marriages today as a result. And I could introduce you to hundreds of couples who did their own thing, ignoring the advice of their parents, and are today either divorced or miserable in their marriages.

Why does God tell children to honor and obey their parents? I did something in writing this article that I seldom do; I adapted it from a sermon I gave this weekend at my church. As I was speaking, I asked the teenagers that question. Their answers: "Because our parents want us to be safe." "Because they know best." "Because they want to protect us."

Parents do know what is best for their kids. Why is that such a radical concept in our politically correct society? Who ever came up with the idea that teenagers, many of them temporarily insane from the effects of raging hormones, can make better life decisions without the counsel of loving parents?

Parents often know their kids better than the kids know themselves. They have lived longer and experienced more. Hopefully they know a lot more of what God has to say in His Word about how life should be lived. So doesn't it just make sense for kids to listen to their parents?

I know of one family that practically begged their son not to marry a young woman. Not because she wasn't a wonderful young woman. She was, and she would have made a wonderful wife for some young man, but not this one. The problem was that she did not want to have children, and the family knew how much the young man loved children. He thought that their love was strong enough to overcome all and married her, putting aside his dream of raising children.

They worked hard at their marriage for ten years, but eventually divorced. Both were Christians, so the divorce was devastating to both of them. Eventually both remarried, and the man had a child late in life. But the scars both of them bear remain. And the sad thing is that if the young man had listened to his mother and sisters, none of this would have happened. By the way, the young man's family were not Christians, but they knew him well. The Bible injunction to honor and obey one's parents applies even if they are not walking with the Lord.

So what are some practical ways in which parents can help their children use courtship principles to find a mate for life?

Let's look at what dating is and what it does, and then contrast that with courtship. Dating is all about pairing off, and spending as much time away from others as possible. This of course leads to inappropriate physical relations and heartbreak. Courtship encourages young people to get to know each other in groups, among friends, family and church members. This is a much safer environment in which to learn about one another. It allows the young person to see how their potential partner interacts with and treats others, including both young people's families. It also allows the young people to be themselves with the added safety of numbers.

Dating treats male-female relationships as a private, personal matter. Courtship teaches that all relationships are accountable. Which is more relevant to real life? All of us are accountable to someone in every area of our lives. It is when we reject accountability that we often find ourselves in deep trouble. Remember when you were in the throes of romantic love? Did you make sound, mature decisions then? If you did, you are certainly the exception. When your children are making life decisions, they need your loving, prayerful counsel. Don't be afraid to "butt in"; the Bible requires you to do so (Jeremiah 29:6).

Dating sees romantic relationships as entertainment. Courtship promotes relationships that exist for service. When you see your child interacting with a possible future mate, don't ask, "Do they have fun together?" Instead, ask, "Do they help one another serve others?" That may seem to be a quaint consideration, but marriage should be about serving others; serving one's family, one's church, one's community. It might sound strange in our selfish, "me first" generation, but it is no less true for its quaintness.

Friends, marriage doesn't revolve around fun; it revolves around working together. To the young people reading this: Ask any happily married couple how long the "fun" lasts! Of course happily married people have fun. But the kind of fun dating emphasizes, going out frequently and spending lots of money on dates, goes out the window when a couple has bills and responsibilities (including kids).

What happens when a young man marries a woman because she is so much "fun", and then she gets pregnant? Now she's not so much fun. Often he starts hanging out with the guys, looking for fun. And eventually he finds another young woman who is fun the way his wife used to be.As I said earlier, dating is much better preparation for divorce than it is for marriage.

Finally, dating is all about a series of relationships; the ideal of courtship (not always possible, but certainly desirable) is to spend time with the one person whom you will eventually marry. Josh Harris calls serial dating "pre-marital divorce." It teaches young people to hang out with someone until they get tired of them, then dump them and move on to someone else. Is it any wonder that with this thinking so prevalent in our society, people think of marriages as disposable as a Kleenex?

Dating starts out with a flawed concept: Let's try out a lot of guys or girls and see which type we like best. Why not? We have 31 flavors at the ice cream store. We have 200 channels on the cable. Let's try on a few dozen people. The difference is that those people, unlike the ice cream flavors have feelings. The repeated heartbreaks that attend dating often have severe emotional effects on kids. Is it possible that the alarming increases in teen depression and suicide might be related to the dating games they play?

Some of the happiest marriages I know of are ones in which the husband and wife never dated anyone but each other. I think of Fred and Cindy, who met in junior high. Their families knew each other and approved of their courtship. They married and have three wonderful kids (whom they watch out for and protect). When you see them together, it is obvious that they love each other very much after more than twenty years of marriage.

Parents, start teaching your children at a young age that marriage is one of the most important decisions of their lives. Get them used to the idea that you will be very much involved in that decision. Make them understand that you have both the right and the responsibility under God to guide them in this area, and that you will say "No" if they make a bad choice.

Young people, listen to your parents. They love you, and they want what is best for you. The Bible says that you are to honor them. Part of honoring them is to listen carefully to the wisdom and counsel they share with you. It also says that you are to obey them. "But I'm 18! I'm an adult!" The Bible doesn't put an age limit on it. If your parents say that you should not be spending time with someone, obey them. They know things you don't know. They've had experiences you haven't had. Most important, they have probably been praying for God's choice of a spouse for you since the day you were born.

By the way, when you are their age with children of your own, remember this day. When you try to save your children from a disastrous relationship, you will think back on the time when your parents tried to help you. I hope it will be a good memory.

Dr. Tom Barrett
Conservative Truth (Publisher, Editor)

Send email feedback to Dr. Tom Barrett


Notes: 

RECOMENDED BOOKS:

Courtship & Dating: So What's the Difference?
By Dennis Gunderson
(Some of the inspiration for this article came from this little book; highly recommended.)

I Kissed Dating Goodbye
By Joshua Harris
(Harris stopped dating altogether. He later married.)

Biography - Dr. Tom Barrett

Dr. Tom Barrett has been an ordained minister for 30 years. He has written for local and national publications for most of his life, and has authored several non-fiction books. He has been interviewed on many TV and radio programs, and speaks at seminars nationwide. Tom is the editor and publisher of Conservative Truth, an email newsletter read by over fifty thousand weekly which focuses on moral and political issues from a Biblical viewpoint.

Tom is Publisher and Editor of ConservativeTruth.org.


Read other commentaries by Dr. Tom Barrett.

Visit Dr. Tom Barrett's website at Conservative Truth

Copyright 2006 by Dr. Tom Barrett
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