According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

RJS - Inspiration? Yes! – Inerrancy? No.


David Livingstone

Pre-Adamism and Hermeneutics (RJS)
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/08/14/pre-adamism-and-hermeneutics-rjs/

by RJS
Aug 14, 2014
Comments

Several years ago I read and posted on David Livingstone’s book Adam’s Ancestors: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins. This is a book I enjoyed reading, so it was a real pleasure to meet David at the Evolution and Christian Faith Workshop last month, and to have an opportunity to talk about the book among other things. Given our recent focus on the question of Adam, not to mention the discussion of Biblical Inerrancy, Adam’s Ancestors is a book that warrants another look and some edited reposts. Today we have the final installment.

In Chapter 9, Dimensions: concluding reflections, Livingstone ties together several themes running through his book. For our purposes today I would like to consider one of these – concordism and the role of concordism in our understanding of the relationship between science and scripture.

Concordism expects a concord, an agreement between claims of scripture and reality. On one level I am a concordist – for example I believe that the historical and theological claims relating to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus match reality. There is a historical and a theological concordance with reality.

But is concordism the right approach to all of scripture? When and at what level is agreement to be expected?

When it comes to Genesis 1-4 I am not a concordist … or am I? Perhaps the line is not so clear. I certainly don’t think that the purpose of Genesis One is to teach cosmology, history or science. Concordist approaches – finding modern science in the ancient text – seem deeply flawed.

On the other hand an accommodationist view – that God “accommodated” his message to the knowledge and understanding of the day has problems of its own. Some find these problems particularly apparent in the issues such as Adam and Fall, the image of God and the soul. The accommodationist approach can simply dismiss features of the text as an artifact of the ancient context and fail to consider fully the meaning and intent of the text.

Both traditional concordist and accommodationist views seem to miss the target in understanding the nature of this Scripture passage as “God-breathed.”

Taking a slightly different look at the problem, as Christians we expect a concord between the teaching of scripture and reality. One of the difficulties is that the teaching of scripture can take many forms…poetry, story, proverbs, history, prophecy, apocalyptic imagery, and more. These forms are molded in time and place – not only by the worldview and knowledge of the day (ANE cosmology for example), but also by the literary forms at work in the culture. Neither concordism nor accommodation seems to provide the correct nuance of understanding and approach.

In the history of the development of thinking about pre-adamite man the concept wavered between a defense of the authority of scripture and a challenge to the authority of scripture. By and large, however, pre-adamite man is a concept that was and is embraced to keep faith with both science and scripture. Livingstone suggests that the investigation of the history of pre-adamism sheds light on concordism and the role of concordism.

As such it [pre-adamism] discloses something about the general nature of concordist proposals. By working to preserve the peace between science and theology, it is not so much that pre-adamism acted as a conceptual bridge between two discrete spheres of knowledge and belief. Rather it functioned as a kind of mold that sculpted both scientific commitment and theological conviction into a distinctive shape. Harmonizing schemes are not to be thought of as passively zipping together two disparate sets of beliefs. They are, rather, agents actively fashioning both scientific theory and religious doctrine into new forms. … Harmonizing strategies are thus rarely single-unit ideas; rather, they are conceptual systems – packages of ideas – that transform the very notions they seek to unite. (pp. 220-221)

Livingstone’s insight – that harmonizing strategies are generally a package of ideas that transform the notions they seek to unite – is worth serious consideration. Every Christian thinker has wrestled with scripture and the story of scripture in the context of a day and age. Perhaps this two way street – with scientific theories informing and transforming interpretation and doctrine shaping the view of science – is the normal, natural, God ordained approach. We read Augustine, not to see threads of modern science in his thought, but to see how he wrestled with the common knowledge of his day and the story of scripture. We read Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Warfield, and Ramm, and see how they wrestled and thought, achieving a harmony between what they saw in scripture and what they knew from the world around them.

Paul told Timothy that all scripture is God-breathed, but it is in the context of a statement that defines a purpose for scripture. It gives “wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ” and it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” I suggest – and put out for discussion – the idea that both the concordist approach and the accommodationist approach miss the point. They fail to wrestle fully with the nature of scripture, its purpose and its form.

I’ve rambled somewhat here – but would like to conclude with a question or two and open a discussion.

  • What role do you think harmonization should play in our understanding of scripture?
  • At what level should we expect a concord between science and scripture?
  • What approach should we take toward scripture?

David Livingstone’s new book Dealing with Darwin: Place, Politics, and Rhetoric in Religious Engagements with Evolution was the basis for his lecture in Oxford. I’ve ordered the book and will post on it soon – it should prove as interesting as Adam’s Ancestors.


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Inspiration? Yes! – Inerrancy? (RJS)
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/08/19/inspiration-yes-inerrancy-rjs/

by RJS
Aug 19, 2014
Comments

The post last Thursday (Pre-adamism and Hermeneutics) focused on the methods of biblical interpretation brought to bear in considerations of Adam and pre-adamic populations, particularly on the role concordism played and the effect of the harmonizing strategies on interpretation. The discussion of concordism and harmonizing strategies developed to keep faith with both science and scripture leads quite naturally into a broader discussion of biblical inspiration, inerrancy and the authority of scripture as the Word of God. After all, the purpose of a concordist approach is to preserve the inerrancy and thus authority of the text.

What does inerrancy have to do with inspiration and/or authority? A commenter on one of Scot’s posts on Five Views of Biblical Inerrancy brought up Charles Ryrie’s statement on biblical inspiration (the commenter found it in a Study Bible, but I also find it on p. 76 of Basic Theology):

Formerly all that was necessary to affirm one’s belief in full inspiration was the statement, “I believe in the inspiration of the Bible.” But when some did not extend inspiration to the words of the text it became necessary to say, “I believe in the verbal inspiration of the Bible.” To counter the teaching that not all parts of the Bible were inspired, one had to say, “I believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible.” Then because some did not want to ascribe total accuracy to the Bible, it was necessary to say, “I believe in the verbal, plenary, infallible, inerrant inspiration of the Bible.” But then “infallible” and “inerrant” began to be limited to matters of faith only rather than also embracing all that the Bible records (including historical facts, genealogies, accounts of Creation, etc.), so it became necessary to add the concept of “unlimited inerrancy.” Each addition to the basic statement arose because of an erroneous teaching. (emphasis added)

Ryrie continues (also p. 76) …

The doctrine of inspiration is not something theologians have to force on the Bible. Rather it is a teaching of the Bible itself, a conclusion derived from the data contained in it.

I agree with Ryrie – inspiration is not something theologians have to force on the Bible and I believe in the inspiration of the Bible. But most of the subsequent refinements (responses to what Ryrie considered erroneous teachings), that define exactly what is meant to some people by “inspiration” culminating in “unlimited inerrancy,” do have to be forced on the text. These are not really something the Bible teaches of itself as a whole or conclusions that can be derived from the data contained in it. In fact they lead to a great deal of cognitive dissonance as many come to fear (or realize) that the text does not live up to the pronouncements.

Concern with inerrancy changes our focus. There is another consequence as well. David Livingstone pointed out that the harmonizing strategies used to achieve concord between science and the Bible transform our understanding of the message of scripture. This isn’t just true for questions of science. Harmonizing strategies within scripture also tend to fall into the same trap … strategies reconciling the details of the differing accounts of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 and even Job; the histories in Samuel, Kings and Chronicles; the details in the Gospels (there are differences both between John and the synoptic gospels and between incidents within the synoptic gospels – as with the fig tree for example: Wither the Fig Tree, Whither the Wandering Saints); Paul’s account of his post Damascus journey with the account given in Acts; and this isn’t a complete list. The harmonizing strategies used transform the notions they seek to unite. At the very least harmonizing strategies draw attention away from the core message of passages they seek to defend.

Inerrancy and all the ensuing imperatives, fine-tuned definitions, and fights, with bodies thrown off the boat, churned up in the wake, seems a largely irrelevant and sometimes destructive concept. We need to take scripture seriously – but taking scripture seriously means reading it (all of it) and living it. Neither rigid literalism nor a sifting of error from truth are appropriate.

The alternatives. When it comes to scripture the alternative to inerrant isn’t errant. I do not believe the bible is errant. But “inerrant” (at least inerrant as it has come to be defined in evangelical Christianity) is simply not a useful term to describe what scripture actually is or what it testifies about itself. We have to take the bible as we have it, with poetry, story, proverbs, history, prophecy, apocalyptic imagery, satire, ancient Near Eastern myth, anachronisms, … with all of the trappings. Here we have a faithful transmission of God’s work in his world, his law, his character and more, recorded in forms shaped by experience and context of the people involved, including authors and editors. It is foolishness (the wisdom of the world) to force it into a mold (unlimited inerrancy) of our own making.

Perhaps the best alternative to inerrant is quite simply to return to Ryrie’s first statement without all the detailed baggage he wishes to encumber upon it – I believe in the inspiration of the Bible. And we can go a step further with Paul. Paul wrote to Timothy that all scripture is God-breathed (inspired) in the context of a statement that defines the purpose for scripture. It gives “wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ” and it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

When we try to define a tighter fence we will become entangled in the rusty barbed wire we have used and we add to scripture (the message of the cross) a structure of our own human construction.

My 2¢ for what it is worth (and I realize that some will think it worth nothing or even less than nothing).


Finding a Balance between Dating and Courtship


Reading this article last night brought to mind that for some, dating is considered an important step towards marriage. It was for me when I was a young man, and I suspect for many other young men coming from a conservative background like myself. However, as in all things, one must find a balance in living while attempting to discover love, life, and self-identity.

For the more serious minded, or thoughtful young man, it is best kept in mind that dating isn't courtship, and courtship isn't engagement or betrothal, even as engagement isn't marriage. Each has its own stages as a relationship proceeds from the unfamiliar to the familiar; from the isolated towards a friendship; from a friendship to a union of some kind; until reaching a nexus or plateau of personal commitment to one another based upon gathered learning experiences, disappointments, failures, and mis-starts.

The author below thoughtfully juxtaposes dating vs. courtship as important initial steps towards marriage that should not be rushed into by hastily intermixing each stage's purposes and constitutions. Dating is dating. It is not courtship. And courtship cannot proceed until one has taken the time to date either one or more persons. Here, the suggestion is to casually date more than one individual... and generally, this is a good idea. It avoids personal despair, or grief, confusion or poor judgment, when rushing one stage to another to only later discover the heart was too optimistic, or too self-deprecating, or too anxious, to allow the significant other time to love you back.

Overall, relationships need to be tempered by time, event, circumstances, and livelihood, among other pre-conditions. To not allow a relationship to evolve and mature is to not give yourself - or your girlfriend or boyfriend - the time necessary to adjust to yourself, your family, your own circumstances, needs and wants. Taking the time to develop a relationship allows necessary time with God to complete in you His plans and purposes. It provides a couple the depth, savvy, wisdom, and insights they may need to moving forward in a way that may blend their own lives, families, friendships, and livelihood, with your own.

So then, as in all things, even in conditions of the heart, be at peace with the Lord and His Spirit. Trust in God and be content with who you are. Do not try to become somebody you are not. Accept and love yourself even as the Lord loves you.

R.E. Slater
August 19, 2014


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Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed



Igrew up as a member of the homeschool community back when we were hiding from the cops and getting our textbooks from public school dumpsters.  When I was a teenager, my friends started reading this new book called I Kissed Dating GoodbyeFor months we could talk of little else. After reading it myself, I grew into as big an opponent of dating as you could find. Dating was evil and Courtship, whatever it was, was godly, good and Biblical.
My grandparents would often ask why I wasn’t dating in high school. I explained what courtship was and quoted Joshua Harris, chapter and verse. Their response surprised me.
“I don’t think courtship is a smart idea,” my grandfather said.
“How can you tell who you want to marry if you aren’t going out on dates?” my grandmother wondered every time the topic came up. I tried to convince them but to no avail. They both obstinately held to the position that courtship was a foolish idea.
Well, what did they know? They were public schooled. I ignored their advice on relationships, preferring to listen to the young people around me who were passionate advocates of courtship.
As I grew older, I started to speak at homeschool conferences and events. I talked with homeschool parents, students and alumni all over the country and started to see some challenges with making courtship work.
Some of the specific challenges I identified were:
  • Identification (Finding that other person)
  • Interaction (Spending time with the other person)
  • Initiation (Starting the relationship)
So I founded PracticalCourtship.com. Its purpose: to instigate a national conversation about how to make courtship more practical. Visits and comments poured in from all over the country about how to make courtship work and why it did not work.
Each year I waited for courtship to start working and for my homeschool friends to start getting married. It never happened. Most of them are still single. Some have grown bitter and jaded. Then couples who did get married through courtship started getting divorced. I’m talking the kind of couples who first kissed at their wedding were filing for divorce.
This was not the deal!
The deal was that if we put up with the rules and awkwardness of courtship now we could avoid the pain of divorce later.  The whole point of courtship was to have a happy marriage, not a high divorce rate.
So I humbled myself and took my grandmother out for dinner to hear why she thought courtship was a bad idea all those years ago. She had predicted the failure of courtship back in the 90s and I wanted to understand how and why.
But first let me define what I mean by “courtship”.

So what is courtship anyway?

After 20 years there still is no general consensus as to what courtship is. But here are the elements most conservative communities have in common:
  • 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.

The Case for Traditional Dating

My grandmother grew up in a marginally Christian community. People went to church on Sunday but that was the extent of their religious activity. They were not the Bible-reading, small-grouping, mission-tripping Christian young people common in evangelical churches today.
And yet her community of friends all got married and then stayed married for decades and decades. So what on earth were they doing that worked so well? Over dinner, my grandmother shared her story about what dating was like back in the the 30s and 40s.
When my grandmother dated in middle school (yes, middle school) her parents had only one rule for her.
The One Dating Rule: Don’t go out with the same guy twice in a row.
So if she went out for soda with Bob on Tuesday, she had to go to a movie with Bill on Thursday before she could go to the school dance with Bob on Saturday.
That sounded crazy to me. So, I asked her the rationale behind it. She explained that the lack of exclusivity helped them guard their hearts and kept things from getting too serious too quickly. 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?
She went on to explain that by the time she graduated from high school, she had gone out on dates with over 20 different guys. This meant that by the time she was 17 years old she knew which Bob she wanted to marry. They got married and stayed married till my grandfather passed away half a century later.
“If I had only gone out with 3 or 4 guys I wouldn’t have known what I wanted in a husband,” she said.
It is not that her parents were uninvolved; it is that they played an advisory role, particularly as she entered high school and they relaxed the rules about not going steady.

The Difference Between “Dating” and “Going Steady”

She went on to explain that there used to be a linguistic differentiation between “dating” and “going steady”. “Going steady” meant you were going out with the same person multiple times in a row. It often had symbols like the girl wearing the guy’s letter jacket. This telegraphed to everyone at school that she was “off the market” and that she had a “steady beau”.
It seems that my great grandparents’ rule forbidding my grandmother from going out with the same guy twice in a row was a common rule in those days.
The Greatest Generation was encouraged to date and discouraged from going steady while in middle school.
This is different from my generation, which is encouraged to “wait until you are ready to get married” before pursuing a romantic relationship. This advice, when combined with the fact that “the purpose of courtship is marriage”, makes asking a girl out for dinner the emotional equivalent of asking for her hand in marriage.
I am not convinced that anyone is ever truly ready to get married. Readiness can become a carrot on a stick, an ideal that can never be achieved. Marriage will always be a bit like jumping into a pool of cold water. A humble realization that you are not ready and in need of God’s help may be the more healthy way to start a marriage.
As the decades moved on, our language and behavior changed. We stopped using the phrase “going steady” and changed “dating” to mean “going steady”. For example, we would now say “John and Sarah have been dating for 3 months.” when the Greatest Generation would have said “John and Sarah have been going steady for 3 months.”
We then started using new pejoratives like “dating around” and “playing the field” to describe what used to just be called “dating”. Each decade added more exclusivity, intensity, and commitment to dating and saw a subsequent rise in temptation and promiscuity.
It is easier to justify promiscuity when you are exclusively committed to just one person, even if that commitment is only a week old.
In the late 80s and early 90s this promiscuous culture reached its peak. People would “go steady” for just a few weeks and then move on to the next relationship. It was this “hookup and breakup” culture that the founders of courtship were reacting to.
But their proposed solution involved adding even more commitment, exclusivity and intensity, the very things that lead to the problem in the first place. This is why courtship is fundamentally flawed.
The courtship movement eliminated dating and replaced it with nothing.
Or, put another way, they replaced dating with engagement. The only tangible difference between an engagement and a courtship is the ring and the date.
Similarities between Courtship & Engagement:
  • They both require the permission of the father.
  • They both are intended for marriage.
  • They are not “broken up” but are instead “called off”.
  • When they are called off there is an inevitable rending of a community as one of the couple no longer feel comfortable spending time with the community of their ex-future spouse.
Young people are expected to jump from interacting with each other in groups straight into “pseudo-engagement”. This is a jump very few are prepared to make. The result is that a commitment to courtship is often a commitment to lifelong singleness.

Why the Courtship Divorce Rate is So High

Recently I have seen a spike in divorces amongst couples who courted. I have a few theories as to why this is. Young people whose parents often maintain veto power on all of their decisions are then expected to make this most important decision without any experience in good decision making. They have no context of who they are, past decision making or an idea of what they are looking for in a spouse.
How can you know what personality you fit well with if you only go out with one other person? The result can be a mismatched couple and a marriage that is difficult to sustain.
Right now all we have little research to go on in terms of the courtship divorce rate. In my observations, some homeschool communities have a much higher divorce rate than others. I would be very interested in seeing some research on this phenomenon. This blog post is my call for more research on the divorce rate amongst couples who “courted” before getting married.

Advantages of Traditional Dating

Less Temptation – It is hard to fall in love with Bob on Tuesday when you know you are going out for coffee with Bill on Thursday. This lack of emotional commitment leads to less physical temptation.  Less temptation leads to less compromise. I have no idea how women are supposed to guard their hearts while in an exclusive relationship with the purpose of marriage.
More Interaction – I know many homeschool girls who are frustrated that they never get asked out on a date. It is not uncommon to find a 21 year old stay at home daughter who has never been asked out on a date. The reason for this is not because the girl is unattractive (although that may be the story she convinces herself of over time).
The real reason is that few guys are willing to ask permission from a woman’s father to marry her before being able to ask her out on a date to get to know her. Even when this permission is requested, it is unlikely to be given.
I know several godly, hardworking and attractive homeschool guys who have been rejected by as many as a dozen fathers. I respect their tenacity. Getting turned down by courtship fathers is tough on guys because the fathers are rarely gentle or kind. So if you are a courtship-minded girl wondering why the guys are not calling, you may want to ask your dad how many guys he has run off.
With Traditional Dating, asking a girl out on a date is no big deal. All the guy is asking to do is to get to know the girl better. Maybe this leads to a deeper relationship, maybe it doesn’t. Either way, the interaction is easier and more fun when it is not so intense.
Less Heartbreak – One of the promises of courtship is that it can lead to less heartbreak than dating. I laugh at this to keep myself from crying. This could not be further from the truth. Calling off a courtship can be as emotionally wrenching as calling off an engagement. It can take years to recover from a “failed courtship.” Also let’s not also forget the emotional cost for girls of not being asked out year after year and the emotional cost for guys of being rejected by father after father.
More Marriage – Let’s face it, most married people got married because they dated first. I would even submit that most homeschoolers who do get married supplemented with dating at some point in their journey. Courtship is not resulting in many marriages despite having been advocated by (sometimes unmarried) conservative leaders for nearly 20 years.
More Fun - The institution of marriage is crumbling. Of the last two generations, one won’t get married and the other won’t stay married. A smaller percentage of people are married in America than at any other time. Part of what helps perpetuate the institution of marriage is making the process of getting married fun. My grandmother made dating in her day sound really fun. Courtship on the other hand can be awkward and emotionally heartwrenching.
Dating also trains people to continue dating their spouse after they get married. It is important for married couples to be able to have fun with each other. The kind of parents who are the strongest advocates of courtship are often the ones who go on the fewest dates with each other.
More Matchmaking - Modern Courtship doesn’t really have a mechanism for matchmaking. How can there be blind dates if the man must first get permission from a father? Courtship relationships are so intense that even introductions can be awkward. I know many happily married couples who met through a blind date or an online matchmaking service like eHarmony. Matchmaking is a time-tested practice that Traditional Dating is fully compatible with. Courtship? Not so much.
More League Awareness -  Not everyone has the same level of attractiveness, character, intelligence and wealth. Parents tend to see their own children through rose-colored glasses. Homeschool communities can be a bit like Lake Wobegon where all the children are above average. It is easy for “no guy to be good enough for daddy’s little princess”. The sad result of enforcing this mindset is a daughter who becomes a spinster. With traditional dating guys learn their league by finding out what girls say “yes” to that second date. Girls learn their league by seeing what kind of guys ask them out.

Responding to Common Questions & Objections to Traditional Dating

Why Not Just Spend Time in Groups?

If you talk with advocates of modern courtship they speak highly of single people spending time in groups. Group settings reduce the intensity, commitment and exclusivity and thus protect the hearts of single people.
The problem with group settings is that not all personality types open up in group settings. Many married couples include one spouse who is more comfortable in group settings than the other. These couples may have never found each other if they were limited to “group dating.”
In group activities, it can be hard for the wallflowers to be discovered for the flowers that they really are. They need a less intense 1-on-1 setting in which to bloom. Group settings are particularly rough on women who grew up in communities where they were trained to value submissiveness, meekness and quietness.
The other challenge with group settings is that they are logistically complex. The more people you add to the group, the harder coordination becomes. Where is a stay-at-home daughter who attends a small family integrated church supposed to find groups of young people to hang out with? The result of limiting interaction to group settings is many lonely nights interacting with no one.

But Isn’t Courtship Biblical?

When applying Scripture, particularly the Old Testament, to our lives, it is important to differentiate between Biblical precedent, principle and precept. Just because Jacob had two wives and a seven-year engagement does not mean that God wants all men to have two wives and seven-year engagements.
What we have in the Old Testament is a lot of precedent: each story is different from the last.
For precedents we have:
  • the woman as the protagonist in the romance (Ruth & Boaz)
  • the man as the protagonist in the romance (Jacob & Rachel)
  • the romance arranged by a third party (Isaac & Rebekah)
  • the woman entering the man’s harem (David & Abigail, Micah, Bathsheba etc.)
There are some good Scriptural precepts about sexual purity in the New Testament, and there are some principles about the benefits of marrying young and that sort of thing.
But the Bible is surprisingly quiet when it comes to laying out a system of courtship. Courtship Systems are cultural, and the Bible rarely advocates one cultural approach over another. God’s heart is that every tribe and tongue come worship him without having to surrender their food, language or other cultural distinctives in the process.
Most of the moral arguments for courtship are actually arguments for arranged marriage. The arguments for the strong involvement of parents fit arranged marriage much better than they fit courtship.
When I started PracticalCourtship.com, one of my goals was to never use the site to criticize arranged marriage. In countries like India, that have both arranged marriages and “love marriages,” the arranged marriages have the lower divorce rate. Arranged marriage has been used by many cultures for many years with good results.
The problem is that arranged marriage is not a good fit for western culture. Many Americans value individual liberty more than life itself. Giving this most important decision to someone else is not something many of us are comfortable with. Also, parents are often hesitant to arrange marriages lest their child resent them if the marriage turns out to be an unhappy one.
I don’t see Arranged Marriage taking off in Western Culture.
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.

Hasn’t Our Sexualized Culture Ruined Dating?

There is no denying that the media is far more sexually charged than it was when my grandparents were dating in junior high. Now while some of that is the media following culture (The Beatles sang about hand holding while hippies swapped STDs in the 60s), I do believe that media affects the culture. The question is how do we best respond to that culture.
The commitment, exclusivity and intensity of dating is what lead to temptation and compromise in the first place. Courtship makes the problem worse by increasing the commitment which intensifies the temptation. The advocates of courtship know this, which is why chaperones are so critical to the system.
The other problem with courtship is that it often delays marriage. Courtship communities expect young people to live celibate lives in a sexually charged culture for a decade or more before they get married. The Bible instructs us to flee temptation and to marry lest you burn with lust. Courtship teaches instead to delay marriage until you are ready.
I recently heard a local pastor complaining about a rash of older 20 something women in his church who had given up on finding prince charming. They started making physical compromises in an effort to attract a man. Once they gave up on courtship they just grabbed whatever the world was offering.
The benefit of traditional dating is that the lack of exclusivity reduces temptation. It also helps young people find out who they are and who they are looking for faster.  Early marriage reduces the number of years a young person must resist sexual temptation through celibacy.
Finally, I should say this: Where sin abounds, grace abounds more. I understand Grace to be the power of God to do the will of God. The power of God is greater than the power of our sexualized culture. There is nothing new under the sun and no new temptation that is not already common to man. This is not the first time Christians have lived in a sexualized culture.
If you study history, you will find that this actually happens often. In each of those generations God provided a way out. I believe that for our generation that way is Traditional Dating.

Now Let’s Talk Some Specifics

Suggestions For Single Women

If you are a single woman, realize that the reason guys are not asking you out is NOT because you are unattractive. It is because you live in a system where he must want to marry you before he can get to know you. It is the system that is broken, not you. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Somewhere out there is a guy who will see you as the most beautiful woman in the world. The more guys you meet, the faster you will find him.
  • If a Christian guy asks you out for dinner, say “yes”. You don’t need to love him to say yes to a first date.
  • Be friendly. Give the guy hope that he has a chance with you. Coyness is not as attractive as the media makes it out to be.
  • Don’t make him run a gauntlet before he can get to know you. Realize he is not asking to marry you when he asks if he can buy you dinner.
  • Some guys are hidden gems and are more than meets the eye. Give him a chance to win your attention and to earn that second date.
  • If you are not interested in a guy, let him down gently. There is a way to give a firm “no” to a guy without making him feel like a worm.
  • Don’t call in your dad to scare him off unless he won’t take the hint. Your dad and his shotgun should be the last resort.
  • Let the guy pay for dinner.

Suggestions for Single Men

  • Start asking girls out. Most girls would love to be asked out and will say “yes” if you would just ask them.
  • Realize that asking a girl out for dinner is not the same as proposing marriage.
  • If she says you need to talk to her dad first, just move on to the next girl. Don’t let the fact that some women have controlling fathers keep you from dating the girls with more normal families. There are a lot of fish in the sea and some dads are nicer than others.  Remember that this man would have become your father-in-law, and controlling people tend to control everything they can. So avoiding women with those kinds of fathers can save you a lot of heartache down the road.
  • If you have been browbeaten by harsh courtship fathers, I feel your pain. Ask God to heal your heart and to give you the courage to try again. The tide is shifting. The leaders that those men used to justify their actions are quickly fading into the past. We are entering a kinder, gentler age. Who knows. Maybe the next girl you ask out could be the one.
  • Get a job. Money makes you more attractive.
  • Pay for dinner.

Suggestions for Both Single Men and Single Women

  • Do what your grandparents did and go out on dates with lots of different people before going steady with any of them.
  • Don’t marry the first person you have feelings for.
  • Keep an eye out for public places where you can have private conversations.
  • Find a church with lots of single people. There are still churches out there with a healthy culture of traditional dating. If no one in your church got married last year, don’t expect to break that trend. You can always move back to your parent’s church after you find your sweetheart.
  • Have fun.
  • Fear God.

Suggestions For Parents

  • Try to make marriage attractive to your children by loving and respecting your spouse the best you can. One reason that your children may not be getting married is because they don’t want what you have in your marriage.
  • Start dating your spouse again. Do whatever you can to make your marriage a happy one.
  • Encourage your sons to ask girls out on dates.
  • Allow your daughters to say yes to first dates from Christian guys you don’t know.
  • As your children become adults, give advice instead of commands. Being a parent does not make you a Pope for another adult.
  • The gentler you are in giving advice, the more it will be sought.
  • Take a step back and trust God to guide your child directly.
  • Pray earnestly and persistently for your child.
  • Encourage your children to find their way to places where they can meet other single people.
  • Don’t force your daughters to stay at home. Let them get out into the world where they can meet godly men. If you want to catch a fish you must first walk to the pond.
  • Remember that gentleness and kindness are fruits of the Spirit.
  • Treat the person interested in your child as a fellow brother or sister in Christ.

How to Talk With Your Folks About Courtship

Share this post with your parents and talk to with them about why courtship is flawed and why you are going to start going out on dates.
The older you are, the easier this conversation will be. I find that even the most controlling parents start to mellow out as their single daughters start entering their 30s. That biological clock waits for no man, even Prince Charming. It will help when their friends start bragging about their grandchildren.
Listen to them as they share the mistakes they made while dating. Listen to their story of how they fell in love. Just remember that every romance is different and your story will be different. Just because your parents got divorced or live in an unhappy marriage does not doom you to their fate.
Realize that many of their rules were created out of fear. They are afraid that you will suffer the same way they did when they were your age.
Don’t forget that they love you. Explain to them that you all want the same thing: for you to be happily married.
Explain that courtship is not helping you become happily married. Courtship leads to singleness more often than it leads to marriage.
If all else fails, play the grandchildren card. Most parents want grandchildren. Try to explain that if they want grandchildren you need to get married and courtship is not helping you do that.

Where do we go from here?

Share this post with your community on Facebook and Google+ to continue the conversation. My hope is that as single people start embracing traditional dating we can restore the fun first date to our culture. The more people who read this post the more guys that will start asking girls out and the more girls who will say “yes” to that first date.
Tweetables:
  • The Greatest Generation was encouraged to date and discouraged from going steady in middle school. (Click to Tweet)
  • The courtship movement eliminated dating and replaced it with nothing. (Click to Tweet)
  • The only tangible difference between an engagement and a courtship is the ring and the date. (Click to Tweet)
  • A commitment to courtship is often a commitment to lifelong singleness. (Click to Tweet)
  • Most of the moral arguments for courtship are actually arguments for arranged marriage. (Click to Tweet)
  • Being a parent does not make you a Pope for another adult. (Click to Tweet)
  • The benefit of traditional dating is that the lack of exclusivity reduces temptation. (Click to Tweet)
  • When applying Scripture, it is important to differentiate between precedent, principle and precept. (Click to Tweet)

What do you think?

If I have learned one thing running PracticalCourtship.com, it is that courtship is very controversial. Even the definition of the word sparks a debate. That is fine. I am happy to see your thoughts and opinions in the comments.   A few requests for the comments:
  • Keep the conversation civil. No name calling. Just because you were hurt in the past is no excuse to hurt others in the future.
  • Keep the conversation humble. Bragging about how this is not a problem in your family is not very helpful.
  • Please read the follow up article before posting comments. I may have already addressed your question in the Q&A post.
  • I reserve the right to delete comments. It is not censorship to take your comment off of my personal blog. Remember you can say whatever you want about me or this post on your own blog or Facebook page.
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