Courtship: Sacred Cow of Conservative Evangelicals (2024 Version)

Courtship, as it is commonly practiced in many conservative evangelical circles, has no solid foundation in the Word of God, though it is practically considered in the same circles to be gospel truth.  The manner in which it is commonly practiced in the same circles now is actually very improper.  The common assumption that it is God’s prescribed way to produce godly marriages practically makes it an addition to God’s Word.  

Courtship cannot be proven to be something good nor right from the Bible.  Indeed, it cannot even appear to be a good thing unless it is maybe compared to modern dating, something which I am not advocating either.  Putting modern dating in opposition to this courtship is a strawman argument technique, since it does not prove that courtship good in and of itself.  It assumes modern dating is the only other choice to go about producing marriage once courtship is rejected.  To make courtship the standard practice for producing marriages, as modern conservative evangelicals have done, is to essentially add to Scripture and create a sacred cow which is considered untouchable, when in reality, it ought to be called out as the man-made invention that it is.  

This rebuke may not really apply to those who practice something they call courtship, yet is more just the couple getting to know each other in an informal way which doesn’t involve high commitment and emotional entanglement from the very beginning (but that is what many conservative evangelicals who promote courtship evidently consider it to be).  

Many believe that courtship is the remedy for the errors of modern dating.  I don’t believe it is right for males and females to date as it is commonly done now either.  Unmarried people of the opposite gender who are not relatives should not be left alone when there is any potential at all for sexual temptation.  Dating usually fails in this way.  Dating often does great damage because one person thought marriage was a possibility while the other had no such intention.  In denouncing courtship as I am doing, I am not promoting dating.  

Don’t think though that courtships don’t ever fail like dating does.  Courtships often do involve fornication and all manner of uncleanness just like modern dating often does.  The chaperone for the courting couple is often a younger sibling who is literally like eight to twelve  years old who is not going to stop bad things from happening.  And those who aren’t godly and spiritual don’t become so because their relationship is called a courtship instead of it being said that they’re dating.  Related to that, when there’s a will to get alone to do forbidden things, there is a way.  Courtship does not remedy this.

You might say you know of courtships where there was purity, and a marriage which resulted from the courtship which is working out well, where both the bride and the groom were also virgins on their wedding night.  The same can also be said of some cases of modern dating.  But that doesn’t justify the practice.  Those who are impure and untrustworthy don’t become so by the system in which they go about the marriage process.  Yet a bad system can be a snare and a sore trial in certain ways for many and be a key factor in a lot of damage done- damage which might have been avoided had the process not been derived from a silly man-made tradition.

The following are some Scriptural principles which everyone needs to follow, whether they are single or married; and whether they are in the process of perhaps getting married or not.  The Bible doesn’t give a precise pattern for going about getting married, but these principles need to be followed at all times, no matter what.  To not follow these is carnal and brings the wrath of God.

1 Corinthians 7:1-2: “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.  Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.”

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8: “Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.  For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.  For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel (body) in sanctification (holiness) and honor; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.  For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.  He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.”

With these principles in mind, there is no reason to think that courtship is any better, or any less defrauding, than modern dating.  Courtship, as it is commonly practiced, actually inherently involves romance before there is a commitment to marriage.  That is potentially very destructive and defrauding.  It’s amazing that the system which much of the conservative professing Christian world has adopted as an alternative to dating doesn’t even remedy this fundamental problem of dating, and rather makes it worse.  People typically should get to know each other in a more casual, less pressured way before going forward with their relationship in a more serious way.  

On the other hand, where was the courtship process with Adam and Eve, or even with Isaac and Rebekah, in Genesis?  In those cases, God brought people together and made it clear that the marriage was of Him without the parties involved in them having known each other personally beforehand.  Those familiar with certain conservative evangelical circles don’t need to use too much imagination to picture people within them complaining about a couple getting married who had never “been through the courtship process.”  Yet God brought people together in Scripture without the courtship process.  And common sense says when that is not the case (God evidently going out of His way to bring two people who are fit for each other in Him together), then the potential couple getting to know each other well before there is the typical heavy commitment and emotional entanglement of courtship is extremely important.  

Courtship is either unnecessary or deficient then.  And when it seems to work, I think it’s evident nearly one hundred percent of the time that if it had just been labeled as engagement, then there is no strong reason to believe that the results would have been significantly different.  Two people who actually know each other well enough to mutually agree to start a courtship, without that agreement being inappropriate and foolish, considering courtship’s huge commitment and its typical public nature, might as well just get engaged.  Let’s face it: Courtships, as they are usually practiced in conservative churches, are hard to back out of, with a large measure of embarrassment and shame if that should happen.  The practical effect is that if you begin a courtship you are pretty much expected to get engaged and get married anyways.

I think courtship is especially defrauding because of the ambiguity regarding whether the marriage is already on or not when the courtship starts.  I claim that courtship can also sometimes actually be worse than dating because there are false assumptions in courtship no matter how you view it.  If you view it as equal to an engagement (as some courtship advocates will basically admit to), then that is false advertising.  And then if you don’t view a courtship as an engagement, the courtship still involves strong pressure to marry and a strong assumption of marriage due its public nature and the vast leap therein.  And that is deceitful too.

Courtship, as it is commonly known in the modern evangelical churches, is deceptive even on a much greater level because it comes under the banner of Biblical holiness.  The fathers involved in the process are also commonly thought to represent what Biblical patriarchy is.  But the common practice of courtship, with its accompanying problems, does not well represent Biblical holiness nor Biblical patriarchy.  Many hate these things, and they would only hate them more if they were to see them represented faithfully.  Yet I wonder if some, at least a few, are uncomfortable with these concepts, not for what they are in their authenticity, but due to how they have seen them represented in modern conservative evangelical culture- perhaps especially in relation to its sacred cow of courtship and the insane confusion which it has produced.  It is too bad that Biblical purity and Biblical patriarchy are vilified so much, but the unbiblical practice of courtship and the bad fruits of it that are common in the environments which it is practiced, sure don’t help at all.  

Both modern dating and modern courtship are insane and invite disaster in both the spiritual and the natural realm.  There are common sense ways to avoid the insanity of both.  

Some say “My spouse and I went through the courtship process, we were virgins on our wedding night, and our marriage is great.”  Good, I hope it is.  Yet there are people who dated, even some people who dated somewhat irresponsibly, who can say that too.  In both cases disaster was  invited, but it just may have been averted anyways.  No one would claim that a group of parachutes, which had been proven to be produced defectively, should continue to be used because some people who had used them didn’t have a deadly or highly injurious fall.  There is a bigger issue anyways here which we’re about to tackle.  The biggest issue for me in doing this study is that courtship is an addition to God’s Word and a sacred cow of modern conservative evangelicals which is long overdue for the just criticism it deserves and warrants.  It is not the mark of spirituality which many consider it to be.

It should be no shock at all that many who claim to live by every Word of God would actually be resting in a format or lifestyle which is not what they claim it is.  A given culture, an ideological mindset, or community can claim to be a representation of faithful Christianity, but that doesn’t mean it is so.  It might rather be something more along the lines of an alternative lifestyle in regard to the mainstream of society and the mainstream of the professing Christian realm.  Adopting additions to God’s Word and claiming that these are “godly, Biblical traditions” goes hand in hand with this.

Those who promote concepts as representing the principles of God’s Word, when they evidently don’t, are essentially adding to the Word of God- and that is serious.  So those who so promote this common way in which courtship is commonly done now, unless they can make a thorough Biblical case citing chapters and verses in relation thereto, need to repent of this sacred cow which they have made and raised up.  Proverbs 30:5-6 says: “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.  Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.”

And when there are things which are not right and true which someone regards as gospel truth, there is reason to believe also that there is actual Gospel truth which they are not pursuing and following.  I believe that some are drawn to courtship because it gives them a sense of believing that they are really living holy and abandoned to truth since they are different in their practice from most others in this exceedingly corrupt generation.  Yet when additions to God’s Word are readily accepted, no matter how holy they may seem and/or feel, then it is a virtual certainty that there are actual elements of Gospel truth, the Biblical concepts which in totality compose and define genuine holiness and actual abandonment to the truth of God, which are being set aside.  

Matthew 7:21-23: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven?  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?  and in thy name have cast out devils?  and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (lawlessness).”

Perhaps even with some “We practiced and/or promoted courtship.”  

Aaron’s email is: [email protected]