“Do You Believe in Courtship?”

“Do You Believe in Courtship?”

Geoffrey Botkin
August 12, 2011

It’s time for some straight talk about courtship. When an age-old convention becomes a pop phenomenon, it can deteriorate into a cultural quagmire. Courtship is all the rage or, rather, was, until people started raging at courtship.

More than a few good men and women have had hopes drowned in the swamps that stand between them and the land of marital bliss. Courtship is difficult. A recent article in WORLD Magazine observes that many Christian boys handle all the difficulty by simply not doing anything at all about Christian girls. Some guys want as few relationships as possible. Others want as few conversations as possible. Others have no idea what they want. Christian bachelors are giving a whole new meaning to the word stalemate.

Wading Through the Quagmire

“Mr. Botkin, do you believe in courtship?” This question illustrates a point. At this time in American history, there are hundreds of separate definitions of the word “courtship.” Many families assume there is only one, and that the definition is shared by the entire culture. I’ve learned that the above question means different things to each person who asks. I have to translate it differently in every situation.

When the question means, “Do you think courtship is better than dating?” I have to say, “Yes, when it is not as destructive as dating.”

When the question means, “Do you believe courtship will solve all the problems I caused as a parent by not preparing my child to approach marriage in a mature way and help my child overcome his lack of character and understanding about relationships?” I have to say, “No.”

When it means, "Do you believe that there is one clear courtship model in Scripture and that it's the only right way to do things?" the answer is "No, I believe the Bible gives us is clear principles, and when my sons married, they didn't court in the way that many people use the word."

It is here that the questioner realizes that he or she needs to ask a lot more questions. I am often interrupted first with this one: “So what model or formula did they use, then?"

Finding Solid Ground

The realities of the landscape look like this: Everyone is not doing courtship and marriage the same way. That is the good news. The bad news is that some young men and women are so frustrated with much of the confusion and hype about “doing courtship the way everyone else is doing it,” they are giving up on marriage. It’s time for the fear and frustration and confusion to come to an end.

On Monday, August 15, my family and I will be starting a live, five-part practical webinar series on this topic. Joining my wife Victoria and me will be our sons David and Ben, the two who married without conforming to a set “courtship” model. David and Ben, and their wives Nadia and Audri, will explain why and reveal what they did. Then they will reveal what they have learned about both marriage and courtship during the process.

Participants in the live webinar will hear how they worked toward common definitions. They will be able ask many of their questions about the convention of courtship, or voice their concerns about the controversies currently raging in the Christian community. What does the Bible say about courtship, anyway? And how are we to gather wisdom from the Bible about marriage?

In Serious Pursuit of Marriage

That last question is truly the key in solving the riddles of youth and preparation for good marriages. Young people who see and understand the goal of marriage are rarely frustrated by the complexities of courtship.

So how can we teach our children to access the grand clarity of God’s design for marriage? Starting at the beginning is a wise step. In the book of Genesis, it is so clear why God created Adam. Adam had a dominion mission to subdue and cultivate the place God created to be His kingdom, a mission which continues (Ps. 8; 2 Cor. 2:14). Adam was God’s representative in this work. Adam was required to know himself in terms of this calling before he was given a helper. This teaches our sons that they need to know their mission clearly. This teaches young ladies that any suitor should know himself and his proven responsibilities well, and where he is headed personally, or he will be a poor leader of a good wife. There is much she will need to know about his goals and ambitions as they relate to his mission.

And what does the young man need to know about the young lady? From Scripture he learns that woman was created to join him in governing the creation as they exercise dominion together. Does the young lady know how to govern herself? Does she know what is required to govern according to the created order? How knowledgeable is she about the tools of government and dominion? Is she well educated in God’s law and how it can carefully be applied in the home and in every sphere of life into which they venture together? Will she truly be able to help him in the challenging mission he has received from God?

Before a reader goes very far at all in the Bible, he will discover much about marriage and the need for compatibility. Willing students will discover that the unmarried need to find out some detailed information about each other before they can begin to discern whether the match is a wise one. How will the two parties discover this information? The two young ladies approached by my sons, now my daughters-in-law, will describe how they discerned the depth of my sons’ character and mission. My sons will describe how they discerned the heart and character of the young ladies.

How was this personal discussion accomplished without upsetting the process with thorny or slippery emotional traps and the loss of objectivity?

Yes, this sounds difficult, both intellectually and emotionally. For my sons, it was also wrenching spiritually. However, both of them would say that their wives were worth every exertion, every risk, every challenge and every tear.

What are we doing to train our children to be able to do the hard work necessary to make the hard calls about one of the most complex decisions they will ever make in life? Providentially, it is not all that complicated. God’s created order holds the answers for families and their children so that they can marry well.

About the Author

Geoffrey Botkin is a cultural analyst, political consultant, veteran filmmaker, husband, and father. He currently serves as a senior consultant to the Western Conservatory of the Arts & Sciences.

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