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Is Courtship in Crisis? (Part 2 of 3)

Last Updated: October 22, 2015

Luke Gilkerson
Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Your Brain on Porn and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

Episode 161


Is Courtship in Crisis (Part 2)

Last week we began our conversation with Thomas Umstattd, Jr., author of Courtship in Crisis: The Case for Traditional Dating. Seven years ago, Thomas would have been an unlikely person to write such a book—he was a big proponent of the so-called “courtship model.” However, after many conversations with both singles and married people raised in a courtship culture, he began to rethink the dating vs. courtship debate.

In today’s interview, he responds to some of the criticisms he’s received, defending why he believes courtship is “fundamentally flawed.”

Show Notes:

0:58 – If courtship is “fundamentally flawed,” why are there all kinds of people who meet and get married through this social norm?

4:13 – Isn’t the real problem with modern dating or modern courtship just that sinful people sin in the name of those models?

13:09 – Isn’t the version of courtship you’ve critiqued too radical?

15:24 – Why do Christians have an aversion to the idea of “dating”? How is “traditional” dating different than “modern” dating?

18:53 – Aren’t the problems associated with courtship just a result other factors, like homeschooling culture?

24:43 – How exactly does modern courtship take us away from our “roots”?

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Leave a comment: Thomas says the fundamental flaw of courtship is that it provides no social context where individuals can get to know one another (and themselves) in a one-on-one setting before making commitments to exclusivity. Do you agree or disagree? If you agree this is a dynamic in courtship, do you agree it is a problem?

  • Comments on: Is Courtship in Crisis? (Part 2 of 3)
    1. Since there is no clear biblical model for either courtship or dating (just cultural accounts of how different Jewish people in Scripture ended up meeting and marrying), it’s pointless arguing which “model” is better, or even worse, is “fundamentally flawed” (while the author simultaneously acknowledges “it works for some people”). Things that made you go “Hmm.” Seriously.

      Yet another case of trying to use “described” Scripture in a “prescribed” way to suit personal tastes. Neither dating nor courtship are sin issues, so if the shoe fits, wear it.


      • Sounds like you didn’t listen to the interview. At the very beginning of the interview, Thomas says emphatically that courtship isn’t “universally flawed” (that is, people do court and get married through courtship), but it is “fundamentally flawed” (that is, one has to retro-fit courtship to get it to work on a large scale).

        I completely disagree that it is pointless to argue about which model is better simply because we believe Scripture doesn’t give us a model. There are many things in life that aren’t discussed in Scripture that are good to discuss, from better recipes to better business practices to better social norms. These processes are what help us to be more productive, work together, and set reasonable expectations.

        In fact, Thomas directly states during the interview that one of his major problems with the courtship model is that people believe it is prescribed in the Bible when he does not believe it is.

      • You’re right; I typically don’t continue reading or listening further when the insinuation is that one means of getting to know someone leading to marriage works better than others.

        With no disrespect to the author, I take issue with his “fundamentally flawed” choice of words as it implies that one “system” works better than another. Reality stomps all over that. Truth is that they are ALL flawed in the sense that there are no guarantees. Every system of getting to know someone of the opposite sex could arguably be “in crisis”. Which is why I believe that God, in His Word, never gives us a prescribed model. Dating, courtship, even arranged marriages all have their levels of “success” and failure.

        In the end, it has more to do with “are the husband-to-be and wife-to-be both obedient to God’s Word?”, whether it’s courtship, dating, or even an arranged marriage. And I might personally disagree with a couple of those “systems”, but you’ll never find me saying that one is “fundamentally flawed” over the other. We need to be honest enough to acknowledge that mutual personal commitment following simple biblical truth over the long-term frequently determines the outcome; not the “system”.

      • I think Thomas’ contention, however, is that the courtship model (as he defines it) is fundamentally flawed beyond the obvious flaw that no system is a guarantee. He is claiming that despite that fact that no system will ever be perfect, courtship is a human experiment that has proven to work far less than other systems.

        I agree that obedience to the Word is critical for any system you follow. The problem, as far as Thomas sees it, is not located in the individuals who desire to obey the Word, but in community norms. I often hear these kinds of objections to proposing new “models” for dating or courtship: “Don’t worry about the models. Just get back to the Word.” I get that. Really I do. The problem is the social norms people follow and the communities in which they are raised. If we look at a community that practices courtship, Thomas’ contention is you don’t see (1) a lot of people not getting married, (2) many people getting unhappily married, and (3) people who might get happily married but hated the grueling process of their courtship rituals. This is why he thinks the system is flawed. He thinks Traditional Dating, on the whole works much better.

    2. May I ask what courtship vs. dating has to do with the issue of pornography addiction?

      • Not much directly. Why do you ask?

        Our blog isn’t about pornography addiction exclusively. We write about a variety of topics. For our articles for parents, we like to write about a variety of cultural issues that impact how parents lead their children regarding sexuality.

    3. Just wondering. Obviously, Covenant Eyes is free to post whatever they want (“duh”, I know), but if I’m scratching my head wondering why this wasn’t instead posted on truelovedates.com (which does speak to this kind of topic), I’m sure others might also be wondering what the relevance is.

      • Perhaps we’re unwittingly giving the impression that all we write about is porn addiction. That isn’t the intention. We write about a very broad swath of issues that relate to human sexuality, relationships, and parenting.

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