The Courtship Path


This is the 2nd post in a series I am doing on the book, 5 Paths to the Love of Your Life (ed. Alex Chediak. Th1nk Books, 2005).Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, gives this endorsement:

Dating is an issue of Christian controversy ??? and for good reason. This fascinating new book brings together some of the most important thinkers and writers on this issue, producing a dialogue that will stretch the mind and encourage Christian thinking. Read this book ??? it???s sure to become a focus of much conversation.

If you missed my post on Chapter/Path 1, make sure you read up on the Countercultural Path before reading on!

Chapter/Path 2 (Douglas Wilson):

The Courtship Path


Courtship is the active, involved authority of the young woman’s father (or head of the household) in the formation of her romantic attachments leading to marriage.


  • Courtship is not egalitarian because it believes in a female submission to a male head of the home.
  • If there is an absence of headship, either because of neglect or a literal absence, young couples should seek out advice from their church on how to continue their courtship. This will probably result in an assignment of surrogate parents.
  • Physical involvement when courting should be completely avoided. After the couple is engaged, it should be limited to holding hands, brief kisses, and hugs.
  • The will of God is rarely an acceptable excuse to conduct courtship in a self-defined way, such as a man pursuing a woman who has repeatedly rejected his interest in her.
  • Platonic relationships are a myth and are not an excuse to spend one-on-one time with a member of the opposite sex outside of courtship.

Key Verses

  • Numbers 30:3-5
  • Genesis 2:18
  • Psalm 37:4

Key Benefits

  • Love develops within a supportive, protective, and encouraging environment.
  • Sexual purity is more realistic and attainable.
  • Trust in the relationship results because intentions are more obvious from the get-go.
  • Baggage occurs less often because all aspects of the relationship are more intentional.
  • Courtship creates an environment for obeying God by honoring one’s parents.

Potential Problems

  • Courtshippers may become overzealous to the point of forcing their method on others.
  • Parents may become domineering and manipulative, using the authority of courtship to make unwise, ungodly decisions in all areas of their children’s lives.
  • Couples may claim they are courting to appear Christian but may ignore the real principles and make up their own unhealthy rules.

Personal Reflections

I must say off the bat that do not know of a single person who has actually done “courtship” as described by Wilson. I have never heard a second-hand testimonial or know of anybody personally who are actually “courting” each other. I do know of a good number of couples who consider themselves in a so-called “courtship” relationship (whatever that means), but they have certainly not proclaimed their direct submission to the authority the girl’s father. These couples think they are courting, and yet show no clear evidence that the guy has and is continually seeking the approval of the girl’s father in the relationship. Frankly, I do not know why these couples describe themselves as courting, for it seems to me they honestly do not know what they are doing or talking about by using that term. (I partly hold Josh Harris responsible for this.)If you are not actually in a courtship relationship, please stop saying that you are “courting”.I have previously considered this approach — seeking out the lady’s father for approval before pursuing her — but in most cases the girl’s family environment has not proven that to be easily possible. My parents certainly have not and still do not employ to such an authoritative courtship approach to parenting me or my sister, and thus I have never been keenly accustomed to what it entails. When I consider the young women I do know from church or fellowship and their relationship with their father, I am unable to see any evidence of such submission to the head of the home for the girl’s formation of romantic relationships. I have been in serving in various ministries since about 1996 and throughout my entire ministry as a worship leader, Bible study leader, small group leader, etc., I do not ever recall seeing OR hearing about “courtship” occurring in reality. In my realm of church, ministry and relationships, I simply have not seen courtship in play.

[…] “if a father has authority in his daughter’s life, then surely that authority extends into this important [dating] area. It is hard to argue that a father has authority over whether his daughter has car insurance, whether she may get her ears pierced, and so forth but does not have authority if love or temptations is involved.” (60)

Certainly, this becomes a very difficult course to travail if I ever were to in the future. I believe most young women would be seriously frightened and alarmed if she finds one her male friends approaching her father to seek his permission and approval to pursue her romantically for the purpose of marriage. For the large majority of young, Christian women I know, they all take the formation of their romantic attachments into their own hands. I have seen such rebellion in varying scales of intensity: on the right on end of the spectrum, the girl’s parents just want her to be happy and thus let her do what she thinks is best; on the other end, the girl hates all forms of control and authority her parents impose on her and thus rebels further by doing whatever she wants and flagrantly exercises the supposed freedom she thinks she deserves. These are just the polar extremes, but you get the point — courtship is not an environment that many young Christian women are nurtured in. It is thus very difficult for a young many to approach a young woman’s father if it is not previously active involvement on the father on his daughter’s romantic life. Hence, when a gentlemen does something as complementarian as to go to her father first for consent, she is either left scarred and weirded out, or God allow, she could be wowed and won already (though, for some reason I think this is highly unlikely!).

[…] “the Scriptures assume that fathers have a practical, applied authority in how and to whom their daughters are given. I am also assuming that the father, if he is wise, will make this decision in close consultation with his wife. […] the daughter is not left alone to fend for herself. Her father watches out for her until the time when her husband will take the responsibility to take care of her.” (63)

In my humble opinion, this path so far seems to be the most biblically complementarian. And thus, for those of us who are not egalitarian and rather proclaim ourselves to be complementarian, it would be rightly appropriate for us to “court”. To say that we believe in the male headship in the family and the church, and yet do not exercise this in the way we are involved in our children’s romantic life is hypocritical; to not seek the lady’s father’s authoritative validation for a relationship would be pharisaical.It is easier said than done. I certainly know that when I become a father, I will be very strict and authoritative over my daughter’s dating relationships. Thus, it does require that the boy to grow up and be a man, and face the girl’s father with courage. For if he is truly serious about a relationship with her, he certainly will have more than enough maturity and gallantry to confront her dad first.

…”if it is not time to cook the roast, don’t preheat the oven.” (74)

What more, is that in a postmodern culture where much physical expressions of love are acceptable, the high standard of absolutely no physical involvement is very difficult to adhere to. The benefits for sexual purity to be more realistic and attainable is certainly a big plus, but considering how scarce it is for any human being to be wired for no physical involvement, this is definitely the boundary that is hardest to stay within. I am humbled by Wilson’s call to zero physical involvement, for I know that it is an area I most struggle with. And really really wish I could have the discipline and self-control to do it. (Don’t give me a cookie, because if you give a mouse a cookie, he will surely ask for milk!)Lastly, I take heed of Wilson’s call for us to stop making excuses to spend one-on-one time with a member of the opposite sex outside of courtship. This is a part of my life that I am currently re-evaluating to see what true intentions there are in my heart for those friendships in which I do spend significant amounts of one-on one time, in person, over the phone, or on the web. I do not think that Wilson is saying that they are completely unacceptable, but simply that we should not be hypocrites and nor be lying to ourselves that we are just friends when one or the other has wishes for more.Heck, if this approach to relationships really brings less baggage to the table, I’d be all for it!

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