Is Courtship “Fundamentally Flawed?” – A Response to Thomas Umstattd Jr.


My brilliant son recently brought to my attention a blog post by Thomas Umstattd Jr. entitled, “Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed.”

The title intrigued me since, as you will soon discover, I am a proponent of courtship as opposed to “dating.”  I was even more intrigued when I found out that Thomas was homeschooled, and that he was the founder of a website called, “PracticalCourtship.Com.”

As I read the post, an avalanche of thoughts were pouring through my mind and as I have reflected on the post over the past few weeks I felt compelled to compose a response.

Let me say at the outset that although I disagree with Mr. Umstadd’s post, I appreciate him writing it.  It is clear that there are issues that he and many of his peers face that we who support courtship need to address.

Before I dive into my response a note of background is in order.

I am a homeschooling father of 3 children (age 15, 13, and 10 at the time of this writing) who advocates courtship in contrast with dating.  I attended public school through high school graduation.  I dated in my youth and early adult life, and was never taught the ideas related to home education or courtship when I was young.  I discovered virtually everything I know and believe about the subjects of launching the next generation from the study of Scripture, the study of history, and the observation of both successful and unsuccessful families.  With that said, let’s get to it.

Idea vs. Use of the Idea’s Name

Before I address specifically the points raised in the blog post I want to establish an overarching understanding.  An idea or concept and operating under the guise of that idea are not the same thing.  It is a common fallacy to criticize an idea or philosophy when what needs to be criticized is the misuse of the idea’s name by those who are not congruent with the idea at all.  I’ll give you some examples.  Any Christian who has done evangelism has run across the “I am against organized religion,” objection.  People will say things like, “Christianity has created so much violence.  Just look at the the Inquisition.”  To criticize Christianity because people calling themselves Christians acted in an abhorrent way is a non-sequitur.  The Inquisition must be evaluated independent of a critique of Christianity itself, and an objective analysis that compares Christianity’s teachings to the behavior of the Inquisitors has to be a part of that evaluation.  The criticism of corporal punishment is another common example.  “I would never beat my child,” the critic says passionately.  Critics use cases of abuse as their supporting data for opposing the idea.  But the idea and the execution of the idea are not the same.  Of course there are thousands of families that lovingly, Biblically, and selectively use corporal punishment as a highly effective tool in the rearing of disciplined young men and women.  It is unfair to lump abuse under the label of corporal punishment.

We have to be careful to look deeper and make sure that what we’re criticizing is not an aberrant example of someone wielding the language of a concept while not being very closely aligned with the concept itself.  I believe this is what is happening in Thomas’ post.  He’s challenged by tactics that are being called “courtship” but don’t necessarily fit the mold.

What Is Courtship?

One of the first things that challenged me about Thomas’ post was his definition of terms.  As I just discussed, I believe we need to distinguish criticism of specific methods employed by a family or group of families from criticizing the notion of courtship itself.  I don’t believe courtship is flawed at all.  Conversely, I think dating is severely flawed with a mountain of empirical data to support the belief.  Having said that, I do believe that there are families that engage in tactics that are not profitable and they call it “courtship.”  There is a big difference.

So what is courtship?

The Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines “court” as:

(1) to seek to gain or achieve (2) to act so as to invite or provoke (3) to seek the affections of; especially : to seek to win a pledge of marriage from (4) to seek to attract (as by solicitous attention or offers of advantages) (5) to seek an alliance with (6) to engage in social activities leading to engagement and marriage.

I think there are several useful ideas contained in that definition that align with what I believe courtship is about.

“To seek to gain or achieve,” speaks to the intentionality of the process.  Courtship is beginning with the end in mind.  It has a specific “destination.”

“Seek the affections of” has obvious implications as well.  The courter is working to win the affection and ultimately the hand of the one being courted.  Take special note here.  Courtship is that process of pursuit.  It is not the culmination of the pursuit.  To court a woman is to actively attempt to win her affection.  I mentor married men and one of my admonitions is to never cease to “court” your wife.

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Courtship and engagement are not the same.  The engagement is the culmination of a successful courtship.  If they were the same, no man could ever court his wife.  A married man should be in a daily quest to win the heart of his beloved.  The winning, striving, exerting of creativity and effort in order to gain the affection of one woman is what courtship is all about.

Let’s skip to the 5th meaning listed, “to seek an alliance with.”  This definitely plays a role since we are looking to form a lifetime partnership and covenant in which we are “equally yoked.”

The last part of the definition is also very helpful.  “To engage in social activities leading to engagement and marriage.”

With all this as a helpful backdrop let me present a working definition of courtship that can serve our purposes in evaluating its merits.

Courtship: a purposeful process for men and women to evaluate their compatibility for marriage, and for men to strive to win the affection of a woman found to be compatible that maximizes the capacity for objectivity, wisdom, and Godliness, thereby creating the highest probability of marital success.

So let’s break that down and compare it to Thomas’ understanding of courtship.  Thomas lists 6 trademarks of courtship that he thinks most would agree on.  They are:

•The man must ask the woman’s father’s permission before pursuing the woman romantically.

•High accountability (chaperones, monitored correspondence, etc).

•Rules about physical contact and purity. (The specific rules vary from community to community).

•The purpose of the courtship is marriage

•High relational intentionality and intensity

•High parental involvement. Fathers typically hold a “permission and control” role rather than the traditional “advice and blessing” role held by their fathers.

Thomas’ first bullet creates a rhetorical difficulty.  We see the first example of confusing execution for idea.  I would agree with the bullet if the emphasis is on the word “romantically.”  However, what I see him criticizing is the practice of needing to get a father’s permission before pursuing the woman AT ALL.

I’m probably going to make some fathers mad at me, but I disagree with the notion that a young man would need my permission to interact with my daughter – period.  Notice that in my definition, courtship is a “process.”  This is an extremely important consideration.  The point where a young man would need my permission to interact with my daughter should come very late in the process.  How so?  Because the initial stages are a “feeling out” exercise that in some cases may take place over years.

My daughter is around young men all the time.  Our homeschool co-ops have young men.  There are young men in our church.  There are young men in her theater group and in her speech club.  And of course she has brothers, so she sees and interacts with their friends consistently.  All of these young men, in one way or another, for good or bad,  are already instilling in my daughter a sense of whether they have the stuff she’s looking for, and helping her build clarity in her mind of what she wants her spouse to “look” like.  Whether intentionally or unintentionally, all of these young men are already “winning” or “losing” her as an option.  When my daughter graduates from high school she will move into the larger world in some way, whether through secondary education, the workplace, ministry, etc.  In those arenas she will be engaged in settings that are populated by young men.  Here again, they will be winning or losing her, purposefully or not, from the moment they begin to interact.

My sons, likewise, are around young ladies.  They are making impressions, for good or bad.  And they are noticing which young women are “attractive” to them based on much more than external appearance.  Which young ladies have the same or compatible values, theology, intentions, ambitions, sense of humor, etc.?

A young man can pursue a young woman a really long way without needing to go on a “date” or ask anyone’s permission, and without being alone.

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A young man doesn’t need to ask my permission to speak to my daughter or interact with her in hundreds of available opportunities.  A young man at a party might strike up a conversation with my daughter standing near the punch bowl.  My son might speak to a young lady in the bleachers of a basketball game where their siblings are competing.  At speech and debate tournaments, young people sit and talk frequently, and none of it requires parental permission.

Permission would come at a point pretty far down the line when he might desire to be with her one on one, to really begin to explore marriage as a possibility.  I use the term “one on one” rather than alone, because the two are not identical.  A young man can sit across a table from a young woman at a restaurant and have a private conversation while some form of accountability sits a few tables away.

This is in line with Josh Harris’ thinking in, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.”  Joshua Harris defines 4 stages of courtship: casual friendship, deeper friendship, purposeful intimacy with integrity, and engagement.  The casual friendship and deeper friendship stages of the courtship process are intentionally lacking the intensity of the “purposeful intimacy” stage when parental permission, or at a minimum, parental engagement, is in order.

A Note to Fathers

Fathers should be engaged in discussion with their daughters about young men long before a young man shows up at the door.

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Fathers should see a major part of their role as mentor, adviser, and advocate to their children.  Any good father desires that his children find a Godly spouse…and sooner rather than later I might add.  Fathers are not to be the roadblocks to the advancement of their children’s lives, but to the contrary, facilitators of their children having even greater success and impact than the father has had.  It is true that, as our Heavenly father is our protector (2 Samuel 22:3-4; Psalm 46:1; 2 Thess 3:3), we as earthly fathers are to protect our children.  If our children are heading down a path that will lead to their misery, we have an obligation to do our best to influence that trajectory.  But protection and paranoia are not the same thing.  My daughter and I have been talking about courtship, marriage, and men her entire life.  I think if you were to ask her, she would tell you that I am her most trusted adviser when it comes to selecting a mate.  I often joke with her saying things like, “when you’re 40 I’ll consider letting you see a guy.”  She just giggles and says, “oh Dad!”  She knows this is just me saying how much I cherish her.  She has no doubt that I want her to find the mate of her dreams and flourish as a wife, and God willing, as a mother.  I have prayed about her future spouse since  the day she was born, and she has heard many of those prayers.  When she enters the stage of life that marriage becomes realistic (i.e. after her 18th birthday) I will consider it my duty to be actively involved in helping that stage of her life unfold, rather than delaying, or worse preventing it.

Let’s talk about non-married men and women being alone.  I don’t believe it’s wise for a man to be alone with a woman that is not his wife in any circumstance.  I have a rule to never be alone with another woman, not because it is sinful, but because it is not smart.  Likewise, I have advised my children to not be alone with members of the opposite sex.

High Accountability.  I agree with the idea of accountability, but I think accountability is wise in every area of your life.  I am accountable to other men in many areas of my life.  As my children go through the process of identifying and selecting a mate it only makes sense that there would be accountability.  I think chaperoning is a term I would agree with loosely as well.  For instance, I don’t think my wife or I need to be present for every interaction.  I do think that once we get to the stage that Harris calls “personal intimacy” there should be someone present that is aligned with my son or daughter’s values that has sobriety.  Again, this is only wise.  There are lots of possibilities of who that person could be including siblings, friends, and relatives.

Rules about physical contact.  Yes.  This is only Biblical.  If you are making out with a girl that is not your wife you are making out with someone else’s wife.  There’s no way around it.  Moreover, certain physical contact can begin to erode objectivity and wisdom.  We’ll talk about that more in the follow-up post where I lay out a vision for courtship.

The purpose of courtship is marriage.  Definitely.  See the definition above.

High relationship intentionality and intensity.  This is where we’re going to start being very specific about what we mean.  One of my challenges with the Umstattd post is that it confuses engagement with courtship.  I understand that there are some people who do confuse those two things.  But I don’t.  Courtship is that…courtship (see definition above) and engagement is the interval between selecting a spouse and taking oaths of covenant to the one selected.  I agree that in courtship there is “relationship intentionality.”  However, I don’t agree that there is relationship “intensity.”  In fact, in many cases, quite the contrary.  Courtship is the process of winning the affection/hand of a woman.  If it’s intense early in that process, something is wrong.

High Parental Involvement.  “Permission and control” rather than “advice and blessing,” by the Fathers.  I am entering territory where I’m going to be repeating myself.  Yes, the parents should be active.  “In an abundance of counselors there is victory.” (Prov 24:6)  The parents are a source of objective observation, wisdom, and guidance.  They should definitely be active in the process.  However, I don’t agree with the notion of “control.”  My job is to raise my daughter in the wisdom and ways of the Lord.  I am to disciple her and see her grow into the full measure of the maturity of Christ.  As a Godly young woman, she will intrinsically seek my input and feedback as a source of Godly wisdom in her life.  She will also know my heart and motivation is to see her fulfilled in her role as a Godly wife and (God willing) mother.  She knows that I don’t see my job as the roadblock to her finding a spouse but rather the facilitator of her being united with a spouse that will bless her, honor her, cherish her, serve her, and love her as Christ loved the church.  Ultimately, she will choose her spouse.  My prayer is simply that she heeds my feedback and advice along the way.

Let’s dive into the meat of Thomas’s post.

Thomas’s Case For Dating

The core to Thomas’s argument for dating comes from his grandmother, who had a successful marriage.  His grandmother shares the notion of never dating a guy twice and makes a distinction between “dating” and “going steady.”  Thomas makes a massive leap from the anecdotal dating experience of his grandmother to a prescription for marital bliss.

First, let me say that my grandparents too had a very successful marriage.  In fact, they were the role models I desired to emulate with my marriage. At the time of this writing, my grandparents on my mother’s side are still living and are in their 71st year of marriage.  You read that correctly.  71 years and counting.  As Thomas notes, such long marriages free from divorce were common in their generation.  However, there is a massive logical leap made by Thomas to attribute their lack of divorce to their approach to dating.  When you examine the byproducts of that generation’s philosophy and practices the record is not pretty.  If we’re going to base our approach to life on their wisdom we better know the fruit.

The “greatest generation” as they’ve been called were those born from roughly 1917-1927.  Let’s recall that this is the generation whose children lead the sexual revolution and radical activism of the sixties and seventies, that oversaw the systematic elimination of God from the public square, and ushered in abortion on demand.  Biblical, political, historical, and economic literacy plummeted in the 3 decades after the “greatest generation” returned from WWII.  Don’t get me wrong.  There is a lot to admire about that group of people, and the sacrifices they made during WWII to liberate the world from tyranny can never be forgotten.  I have spent thousands of hours with my grandparents and their friends.  They were hard-working, frugal, grateful, and for the most part church-going.  And it is probably unfair to paint an entire generation with a such a broad brush.  None-the-less, the negative impact from their lack of discipleship and their approach to parenting and faith is unmistakable.  They were the first generation in American history to not “pass the torch” so to speak.

I question whether these are the people that we want to rely on as the fount of wisdom when it comes to ensuring that the next generation is trained up in the way that they should go.

Secondly, there are innumerable sociological factors in the lack of divorce among that generation.  For starters, divorce was very difficult during the majority of their lives.  The concept of the “no-fault-divorce” was introduced by the Bolsheviks in Russia following the Bolshevik revolution in 1918.  Communism requires a breakdown of the family to flourish and it is a primary goal of communism to create mechanisms that break down family in any society they attempt to infiltrate.  In 1969, California became the first state in America to introduce no-fault divorce.  The act signed into law in 1970 by then governor Ronald Regan contained language that was almost identical to the statutes implemented in the Soviet Union.  It took about 15 years, but by 1985, all 50 states had followed California’s lead and adopted no-fault divorce.  It was at this point that divorce rates skyrocketed.  For the “greatest” generation, divorce was all but a foreign concept.  They had never seen divorce modeled for them, and didn’t really have a mechanism for their own divorce when abuse and adultery were absent.  Therefore, to attribute their lack of divorce to the fact that they went on lots of dates is simply naive.  Moreover, divorce was a mark of shame during that generation.  People would simply live apart or live in the same house but not in the same bedroom rather than get divorced.  There was great societal peer pressure to not be divorced.  Again, this had nothing to do with the methods they used to choose a spouse in the first place.

Keeping It Casual

Thomas then quotes his grandmother by saying,  “The lack of exclusivity kept the interactions fun and casual. ‘The guys wouldn’t even want to kiss you!’ She said.  The lack of exclusivity helped the girls guard their hearts and kept the boys from feeling entitled to the girl. How could a boy have a claim to her time, heart or body if she was going out with someone else later that week?”

Well Thomas.  I’ll tell you how.  By being raised in a hyper-sexualized society where young boys are exposed to pornography as early as age 2 and “hooking-up” is not only common, but in many segments of the adolescent culture, expected.  Again, I think this idea is just naive.  Cultural standards for his grandmother were night and day from what they are today.  Much the way that virginity is maligned today in schools and popular culture, anything but virginity was scandalous in the 1930’s and 40’s.  It wasn’t a matter of dating lots of guys.  It was a matter of it being completely out of bounds to even consider a sexual relationship.  A girl who was willing just to kiss a boy heavily was spoken of derisively and whispered about in the halls.  We live in a completely different world.

On college campuses today, exclusivity is the furthest thing from the average student’s mind.  They use language like, “fun” and “casual.”  And they do so to describe and justify sex with people they barely know.  Kathleen Bogle, assistant professor of sociology at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, wrote a book called “Hooking Up: Sex, Dating and Relationships on Campus.”  In the book she documents that young adults are more likely to have physical intimacy first and only later develop any sort of relational intimacy.  This is a phenomenon never seen before in Western history and must be accounted for by anyone desiring to operate Biblically.

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If that weren’t enough, another factor has emerged that dramatically alters the landscape: the rise of the sexually aggressive female.  For Thomas’s grandmother, the notion of the woman being the aggressor would be a totally foreign concept.  Prior to writing this, I interviewed my mother and grandmother.  Both agreed.  For a woman to initiate anything would have been unheard of.  A girl didn’t call a boy, let alone ask him out or make a sexual advance.  To quote my grandma, “If a boy didn’t call you, you sat at home.”  This is no longer the case.  Many young women are as aggressive as their male counterparts, and this creates a halo effect of peer pressure regarding a young woman’s romantic activity and prowess.

Two Bold Statements

From here, Thomas tries to make a semantic argument regarding the difference between “dating” and “going steady.”  I don’t think there’s any value in this distinction for a variety of reasons.  First, what really matters is positioning a young man and a young woman to make the wisest and highest probability choice regarding the most important decision they will ever make in their lives.  It’s not the number or variety or frequency of your dates.  It’s what happens when you put men and women together that matters.  Secondly, lots of these people did “go steady,” and as we entered the 1950’s we saw that happen with greater frequency.  The idea of “getting pinned” or wearing a letter jacket to demonstrate your loyalty to one person became en vogue.  By the 1970’s and 80’s the class ring was a common symbol.  And every step in that process led to greater promiscuity, greater pregnancy out-of-wedlock, and with the introduction of no-fault divorce, higher divorce rates.  That entire section of the post is really designed to lead to two bold statements.

Mr. Umstattd first says, “The courtship movement eliminated dating and replaced it with nothing.”  I don’t know who the “courtship movement,” is.  Is it a committee somewhere?  All I know is that books like “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” and fathers like me didn’t replace it with nothing.  We have replaced it with a process that is pretty clear.  (My next post will lay this out.)

Then Thomas says, “The only tangible difference between an engagement and a courtship is the ring and the date.”  Here’s where the rubber really meets the road for his entire critique.  I think this is the hinge of Thomas’s entire argument, and it is a statement I find patently ridiculous.

As I stated in the beginning, we cannot judge an idea based on someone’s actions who claims they are following the idea.  I have no doubt there are families that operate in such a way that the courtship and the engagement are practically the same thing.  But people do all kinds of strange things.  I can only speak for myself and the other men who I know that care about getting this issue right.  Courtship is courtship.  Engagement is engagement.  They are NOT the same thing.

In my next blog post, I am going to lay out a hypothetical courtship process so that it is clear what courtship could look like.  I’m also going to talk about the why behind courtship and demonstrate its superiority.  But let me get through the rest of Thomas’s post first.

A High Divorce Rate Among Courtship Couples?

Where’s the data?  You can’t claim that the divorce rate among couples that courted is high based on a few anecdotal cases that you are personally familiar with.  Is there any empirical evidence to support this claim?  Moreover, you would need to address several things for it to matter.

  1.  Are you suggesting these people would NOT be divorced if they had dated instead of courted, and if so, why?  What evidence do you have that the outcome would be different?
  2.  Can you demonstrate that those who date divorce less that couples who court?  You know this isn’t the case.

  3.  What is the spiritual condition of the people involved?  I’m not making an assumption here nor am I judging any of them, but courtship is not a silver bullet.  People who are not committed Christ followers and are not dedicated to obedience to the Word are likely to get divorced no matter what mechanism you use to put them together.  Marriage is a covenant.  Typically, only those that value keeping covenants indeed do keep them.

Supposed Advantages of Dating

Forgive me here.  I do not mean to be demeaning.  But this section is just laughable.  First, Thomas claims that dating (as defined by his Grandmother) presents less temptation.  Is he serious?  In our culture, young people are “hooking up” in many cases without even knowing each other’s names!  “It is hard to fall in love with Bob on Tuesday when you know you are going out for coffee with Bill on Thursday.”  Really?  In what fairy tale?  And who said anything about falling in love?  After all, it’s temptation that we’re talking about.

Next he claims there is more interaction.  This is another leap of logic and a critique of execution.  Why is it assumed that a girl gets less opportunity, by definition, to interact with males simply because she and her family believe in courtship?

I will say that I see how the issue raised of girls sitting home and never being approached because the young men are fearful could be a real thing.  But this isn’t a problem with courtship.  This is a problem with certain fathers and certain subcultures of people who communicate overtly or not to the young men that the only time he can approach is when he’s sure he wants to marry.  If this is happening, to those people, I would say an examination of your approach is in order.

Next he lists less heartbreak as an advantage, and to this I would say, “my dear boy.  You have NO idea what you’re talking about.”  My high school might as well have been called Heartbreak Hotel!  Every day you would find a girl in your class sobbing over a break up or a young man devastated because the love of his life just dumped him.  Every day!  Girls who had “given themselves” to a guy they were sure was the one would find themselves on the trash heap a week later and the innocence of life was gone.  If you think dating equals less heartbreak you’ve been living in a fantasy land that has no access to pop music.  Just listen to the lyrics of the hit songs of the last four decades and you’ll need no more proof that dating is an emotionally violent game.

He claims dating means more marriage.  This is a false cause argument.  The simple fact is that the majority of the population doesn’t know any other approach than dating.  Therefore, it only follows the majority of marriages come from those who “dated.”

He claims dating makes the process more fun.  Again, this is spoken by someone who it seems has never dated.  Dating is hell.  Write it down.  Every dating relationship ends badly but one.  And you are so scarred and beaten up by that point that most people never fully recover.  They take all that baggage into the one relationship that looks like it’s going to last (the marriage) and they can never have the intimacy that was intended.  Assumptions, guardedness, and hidden thoughts and feelings are brought from all those years of bad experience on both sides and they plague the relationship.  I counsel married couples and I know first hand what that baggage can do.  Do dating relationships start well?  Sure.  Is there bliss and magic for a season?  Sure.  But the open-endedness of dating, the lack of direction, and frankly the option to just bail whenever by either party always creates emotional havoc.

He says dating creates more matchmaking.  Why?  Matchmaking started long before dating did.  Families and friends have been matchmaking for thousands of years.  Matchmaking and dating are not synonymous.  In fact, I think it’s possible to follow a courtship model while using a service like eHarmony or  Courtship is the mindset and the methodology.  Where the people come from is not much of a factor.

Last he has this idea of “league awareness.”  I understand what he’s saying but I don’t understand what he’s saying.  I personally married WAY outside my league.  What I can tell you is that when a man is courting a woman, if she thinks he’s “beneath” her in any way, there probably won’t be a second meeting.  This causes me to once again repeat that courting is not a preventative for men and women to spend time together.  Quite the opposite.  It simply governs that process in a wise and Biblical way.

His Response to Questions and Objections

The excessive length of this post is bordering on being criminal, but I do want to give the briefest possible attention to a few of his thoughts from this section.

He answers the supposed question of “Why not spend time in groups,” by pointing out that some people don’t excel in group settings and that finding groups is hard.  I would say that groups are the place where almost all relationships begin, marriage or otherwise.  I’ve met my best male friends in groups through work, church, or a club.  I know there are chance “one on one” encounters that generate relationships, but I would have to bet that if you think about every relationship in your entire life, most came from a group.  People who “date” meet first in some sort of group.  Courtship will begin here as well.  But courtship will ultimately move outside the group as we’ll see in a follow-up post.

Because groups are so critical to the development of extra-familial relationships in a person’s life, all parents have to make their children’s involvement in such settings a priority.  It’s a priority on two fronts.  First, parents must take seriously what groups they are allowing their children to be a part of so that counterproductive peer groups don’t arise.  But second, parents need to provide ample opportunities for their children to be in these settings.  If a family is a part of a small church with few other children of the same age, the onus is on the parents to find or create other avenues for their children to interact with people of the opposite sex.

As I said earlier, a good father desires to see his children marry and marry well.  My daughter is 13.  My oldest son is 15.  I am pondering daily where the candidates will come from for marriage.  Don’t get me wrong, I think we’re years away from that point for even the 15-year-old.  But in the next 18-24 months, having a candidate-rich environment is going to become imperative, and I consider it one of my most critical responsibilities.

Next Thomas addresses the argument that courtship is Biblical by essentially saying that the Bible is silent on this issue and saying that when most people argue for courtship on moral grounds they are really arguing for arranged marriage.  To say the Bible is silent is both a red herring and, no pun intended, an argument from silence.  We could use this same argument against homeschooling, bathing, brushing your teeth, or driving the right direction on a one-way street.  Because the Bible doesn’t explicitly lay out a model for modern courtship doesn’t mean that courtship is not profitable.  Nor does it mean that the Bible is silent about principles that lead to the best outcome regarding male/female relations, sexuality, and marriage.  In the follow-up to this post, we’ll be talking about this more.

At the end of this section, Thomas makes yet another block of comments that leaves me shaking my head.  I want to quote it in its entirety:

“We need a system to help young people make good decisions. Fortunately, we have one: Traditional Dating.  Traditional Dating fits our culture like a glove. Most of Americans already intuitively know how it works because it is part of who we are as a people. If you don’t know how it works, ask your grandparents, and they will tell you of the glory days when men were free. Watch the twinkle in their eye when they tell you of a time when men and women could fall in love and pick their own spouses.”

My reaction is: Is this for real?  What empirical evidence exists that dating causes young people to make good decisions???  We have the highest rate of cohabitation in history.  We have the highest rate of abortion from pregnancies out-of-wedlock in history.  We have the highest rate of sexual activity among non-married 13-17 year olds in history.  We have a tragically high divorce rate.  And virtually all of these numbers come from people who “dated.”   Ask your grandparents and watch a twinkle in their eye?  Glory days?  Who needs to ask how dating works?  Turn on the television.  Watch a movie.  Talk to a local public schooler.  Heck, talk to your parents.  Dating and it’s results are no mystery to anyone.  Dating wasn’t in the “glory days.”  Dating is right now all around us.  And the results are anything but admirable.

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I have followed up this post with a series on courtship that describes what I think courtship should look like in the real world.  I think you’ll find it a valuable companion to this discussion.

To conclude this response, I appreciate Thomas giving voice to the apparent frustration of some of his readers and peers, and creating a catalyst for constructive dialog on this vital topic.   But courtship is not fatally flawed.  That description would belong to dating.

Thanks for suffering through this long post.  I’d love your feedback below.

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