This book, written by Barry St. Clair and Bill Jones, has a very attractive title: At that time, I did not think much about the book. But now looking back I am glad that my wife did not apply the principles taught in it, or I might not have married her! As the book progresses, however, it becomes quite clear that the authors are simply trying to force-fit some biblical guidelines into a questionable worldly practice which is at worst a sensual and meaningless end-in-itself relationship experiment, and at best a rather selfish trial-and-error spouse fishing method.
Consider how the authors exalt non-commitment in dating and deprecate commitments. According to them, there are four levels of dating: It may be a one-time date, or they may date occasionally. However, neither one is committed only to the other. If they date fairly often, they date other people as well.
They may or may not have talked about their commitment. One wonders how a commitment could be made without saying anything when all this while the couple has been dating without any commitment to each other. In any case the authors appear to dissuade commitment as they immediately list 4 pluses and 8 minuses for commitment dating! The first of the pluses is: One of the minuses is: No, I do not think all dating is sinful.
We will be hard pressed to prove that dating is always sinful. But I do believe that the practice of casual dating is one of the causes of moral laxity in the American culture. I also believe that dating without any marriage-focus goal does promote worldly principles of self-centredness, which often results in very painful break-up between couples.
Alternative to Dating If not dating, then what are the alternatives? Since marriage is an ordinance of God, there must be acceptable activities that lead to it. The fact that Scripture does not dictate any one method suggests that it is a matter of Christian liberty.
But, the two biblical examples are: The marriage between Isaac and Rebekah was partly arranged. Now, with the increasing complexity of the modern society, arranged marriages are all but extinct.
Few parents are willing to arrange marriages for their children; and few children would be happy to be forced into marriage by their parents. The church, moreover, does not have any biblical warrant to arrange marriages. What is left for us is courtship. I would define courtship,—in distinction to dating,—as activities between a man and a woman with the goal of marriage in view.
In other words, it involves a man and a woman going out together as a couple with a stated or understood goal of marriage. Indeed, I do not think we can make a biblical case for a girl and a boy going out together alone on a date just for fun or for making friends. There are other ways to make friends. If not, how could you enter into a relationship with a goal of marriage?
My answer would be: I am, of course, referring to the secret or decretive will of God, for what else would our inquirer have in mind?
The Word of God teaches us: Prudence would also dictate some other qualities to look for, such as godly Christian character with a fear of God and a desire to conform to the Word of God. Personal preferences and attraction may also influence our choices. In a letter to William Farel, John Calvin explained what he was looking for in a wife: I am none of those insane lovers who embrace even vices, once they have been overcome by a fine figure.
The only beauty that attracts me is this: Now, it is also not wrong to be attracted by external appearance, provided reason is not clouded by it. Again, Calvin has some refreshing remarks: Only excess is to be guarded against, and so much the more diligently, because it is difficult so to restrain affections of this kind, that they do not prevail to the stifling of reason.
In any case, it is clear that dating is not going to help you to determine if it is the will of God to marry a particular person. What is the will of God concerning courtship? I believe it is simply this: In other words, it should be based on commitment towards marriage right from the onset. Yes, it must be entered with the understanding that there could be good reasons eventually to call off the relationship; but the reasons must be biblical.
Possible biblical reasons for initiating a break-up include: When to Begin Courtship? Very few Singaporeans actually practise casual dating in the way of the American culture. Our society is still quite conservative in this sense. However, it is an observable fact that many young Singaporeans enter into some form of committed relationship at ages 12 or This, however, is not courtship. It is more like a premature form of consistent or committed dating simply because marriage can hardly be on the agenda in such relationships.
So, when would be a right age to begin courtship? I believe that given the marriage-goal of courtship there are two factors which should determine when is a right time to begin: In other words, I do not believe that teenagers should enter courtship or dating relationships.
I do not have dogmatic reasons to buttress my suggestion, but that there is really no biblical grounds for two young persons to be romantically linked unless marriage is in view. Moreover, various statistical studies have indicated that the earlier a young person starts dating, the more likely he or she will commit fornication seeClair and Jones, Dating, Experience in the local context, moreover, shows that most relationships that begin prior to the completion of National Service for men, 18 to 20 years old end up in painful break-ups.
How to Begin Courtship? Since the husband is to be the leader in the family Eph 5: A man who fails to take initiative in courtship may also fail to take leadership in marriage. A woman who initiates courtship may eventually subvert the headship of her husband. Of course, these are maybes, but a failure to recognise the biblical roles of husband and wife and to resolve to observe these roles early is likely to create problems later in the relationship.
Thus, when a man is ready for courtship, he should speak to the woman of his choice after praying and seeking guidance on whether she be the one he should ask. He should naturally have observed her for quite a while in social settings, such as in the church or at work. He should also know her Christian character somewhat, before asking her out. On the part of the woman, when a man proposes courtship, she should not immediately accept the proposal.
Remember, that courtship is a committed relationship that should ordinarily lead to marriage. It behoves the woman, therefore, to spend sometime to think, pray and seek godly counsel about the proposal before agreeing to go out with a particular man. She should, of course, consider his commitment to Christ as indicated above. Involvement of Parents and Church At this point, it would be most helpful for the parents to be involved.
A son who honours his parents will naturally want to let them know and approve of his courtship with his girlfriend. A filial daughter would do the same. If at all possible, parental involvement should be more than just approval of the relationship, they should also take an advisory and perhaps accountability role.
This is especially so if they are committed believers themselves. But what if they are unbelievers? Then any believing older brothers or sisters may also fulfil the role. In the Songs of Solomon, we have a very beautiful picture of the way in which the brothers of the Shunnamite woman protected her until she was married off: We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver: What does it mean for her to be a wall? Perhaps, it means that she is one with a firm and steadfast character.
That being the case, the brothers resolve to adorn her. But what does it mean for her to be a door? Perhaps, it means that she is one who is weak or morally lax, in which case they would protect her purity from men who would defile her. But what if both parents and siblings are unbelievers? In this case, I believe, the couple should seek the guidance and counsel of the pastor or elders of the church they worship in.
This does not negate parental approval for the relationship, but it does provide for accountability for a Christ-centred relation that can only be provided by believers. Whether, it be parents, siblings or church, it would be most helpful for the maintenance of purity and direction in the courtship for the couple to be accountable to someone who is interested in seeing that the relation is Christ-honouring.
This person or persons should be kept aware of how the relationship is developing and should meet with the couple on a regular basis for counselling if necessary.
Activities in Courtship Since courtship is with a view to marriage, it is useful if the activities in courtship be more or less designed to get to know one another. Going to a movie or taking a nap together, for example, would hardly help the couple to get to know one another, not to mention being occasions for temptation. On the other hand, doing some meaningful activities together such as walking, Bible study, baby-sitting together, hospital visitation, tracting, baking, etc.
Naturally, for the sake of maintaining purity in courtship, the couple must recognise that physical intimacy should only be reserved for marriage. Are you in courtship?