Of Course Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed

early dateSo is dating. So is marriage. That’s because the people in all of these situations are sinners, so anything they touch will, in some way, be damaged by sin. But blaming “courtship” (or your Vision Forum straw man version thereof) for “dragon” fathers, spineless spinsters, and poor young men who are getting crushed by the courtship machine seems extreme. At the very least, it indicates the need for an understanding of the biblical concept of covenant headship. The arguments in this article are so fundamentally flawed, one has to wonder what sort of homeschooling education produces this logic, or what social bubble spawned the idea that “courtship dads” are more abusive than others. Caricatures are simply not helpful; here are some counter points that may help clearer thinking about courtship.

Getting parental approval to start things is never the start of things. How many couples do you know of where the fellow asked the father for permission to pursue a serious relationship before he and the girl were friends? I can name one, maybe two, out of hundreds of courtship stories. To ask the father for approval before you know the girl is not really courtship; it’s really arranged marriage. Having too much accountability too soon isn’t an issue; visit a college campus to see problems that come from having too little accountability too late. Here is another way to think of it: it’s not like baking cookies at all.

There’s a good chance that, “Talk to my dad,” is her way of letting a guy know that there is at least some interest. I had no trouble saying no. Neither did my sisters, friends, cousins, casual relations, etc. Perhaps there are homeschooled girls out there who have been brainwashed into mechanical responses or an inability to have an opinion. I don’t know many of them. It’s easier to say, “no,” to a guy when you know you don’t want him than it is to have the whole thing go to dad. So my advice is to take what she says at face value and do it instead of taking it as a hint to get lost. Unless a guy has a Mr. Collins complex, he will take a woman at her word, instead of interpreting it as secret hints of a “delicate female”.

There are definitely maturity issues. Whether you’re dating, courting, married, or a born eunuch, you have maturity issues. Everyone does, especially when they are under 40: courtship does not create them or even foster them by definition. If a girl acknowledges her father’s responsibility and can graciously direct you to him, there is a chance that she is mature enough to understand covenant headship and show respect for the man who raised her and loves her most. The kind of girls protected in this way are often the kind of girls who become wives who not only respect and include their husbands in major decisions, but also help him make his own wise choices. They may still live at home, but if the home was like mine was, we all found and held jobs in our early teens, hosted strangers from all backgrounds, debated at the dinner table, and were generally well equipped to leave and cleave.

There are definitely trust issues. My parents didn’t trust any college student hanging around until they got to know him. Why would they? It wasn’t a lack of trust in God; it was an accurate understanding of the human condition and a love for me.

The idea that parents may need to be “handled” because they want to know who you are and what you are doing with their daughter seems relationally crude. A man who is protecting his daughter from users, abusers, or lame guys in a pornified world does not need you to manage him. He needs to trust that you love and care for his daughter and want a relationship with him as a Christian man. Courtship developed a deep trust between my parents and then-boyfriend that was the foundation for a wonderful relationship. Shortly after my wedding, my sister said, half joking, that it wasn’t fair that my husband was my parents’ favorite child. He didn’t have to handle them. He had a relationship with them.

Yes, courtship makes the relationship mathematically more complex. And realistic. Two people together is one relationship. Add a couple kids and it quadruples the number of relationships. I’ve always thought that Christians should live in community with their local congregation, anyway, which makes me involved with hundreds, if not thousands, of relationships. To think that it is possible to have a purely, one-on-one relationship in any sense but sexually, seems naïve. A husband and wife have primary relationships with each other, but I hope they are getting more than “advice” from more than “advisors” around them. Same for any “courting” couple. No man is an island, no couple is an island, we live in community and it is complicated. Where there is love and forgiveness, this multiplication of relationships will mean a multiplication of support and encouragement and healthy accountability, not problems saying sorry.

All of this reminds me of a young man who had a crush on me and didn’t talk to my dad. “You are never going to get married!” he pointed out, “Nobody is going to be able to; once they talk your dad into it, then they’ll have to talk you into it!” I got married, but not to him. I was living in an apartment that I was paying for going to a university that I was paying for. A grad student/history teacher was interested in a relationship and talked with my dad without me telling him to. Dad discussed it with me. I spent that summer working during the day and getting taken out to concerts and cafes at night—without dad, who continued checking in on things. I was 19 at my wedding and have never struggled to form or express opinions to my husband.

The more I read Scripture and see this world, the more thankful I am for that courtship, and the protection that the Lord has provided for flawed human beings in vulnerable relationships. It didn’t just “work for me;” it worked because of the principles God has established and embedded in creation and the church. Reverting to 1950’s dating is not enough; we need to revert much farther back to biblical patterns.