Monday, March 24

Is Courtship Really Biblical?

The word "courtship" isn't mentioned once in the Bible.

With all the recent fuss over legalism vs. grace I thought we should take a look at the Scriptural basis for the tenets of what is often called "courtship" or "dating with a purpose" or "whatever you want to call it."

There are key texts written on this topic, the most popular being "Passion and Purity" by Elisabeth Elliot (really anything by Elisabeth Elliot) and "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" by Joshua Harris.

Skeptics of "courtship" might wonder, "If courtship is so biblical, then why do you need a book to help you figure it out? Isn't that extra-Scriptural? Or worse, legalism?"

Why have so many books been written and read on the topic? Because for generations people haven't been following Scripture! Our culture has gotten so far away from the biblical way of approaching marriage, that we have to in effect re-introduce these ideas.

Now let's look at the biblical foundation for courtship. I've boiled down courtship into what I consider to be the most widely accepted and Scripturally supported pillars. Each of these pillars looks slightly different for families, and some families even have more specific convictions regarding each pillar.

1) Physical Purity

2) Emotional Purity
3) Parental/authority role
4) Intentional timing/dating with marriage in mind

The case for physical and emotional purity: 

  • "But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28) So if looking at anyone except your spouse with lust is a sin, then we should avoid those behaviors which push us towards lust.
  • "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13) God gives us the strength to overcome temptation, but we shouldn't test God by engaging in temptation-inducing behaviors.
  • "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous." (Hebrews 13:4) This speaks for itself. Because emotional attachment is such a key part of marriage, I think that forming strong emotional attachments without commitment can end up "defiling the marriage bed."
  • "Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." (Song of Solomon 2:7) By engaging in sexual sin and by forming emotional attachments without a commitment (the physical and emotional are linked, therefore engaging in one or the other creates a bond between 2 people) we awaken a love which God calls us to reserve for one person only.

The case for parental authority:
  • The word counsel appears 19 times in the New Testament alone! "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." (Proverbs 15:22) Engaging in any behavior without counsel, particularly from your parents is dangerous.
  • "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." (Matthew 19:5) The moving from parents to spouse inherently indicates God considers the parents to be essential in the process.
  • "Honor thy mother and father." This commandment is particularly important for relationships in which the parents don't bless or condone. Committing to a relationship in which both parents don't approve clearly does not honor thy mother and father.

The case for intentional timing:
  • "Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." (Song of Solomon 2:7) Engaging in long, drawn out period of dating make it difficult to avoid sin.
  • "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?" (2 Conrinthians 6:14) If you wouldn't marry a non-believer (or person with "xyz" conviction), why date them? You're risking falling into sin for a person that the Bible says you shouldn't marry.
  • "Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house." (Proverbs 24:17). Why buy furniture for a house you haven't built yet? Likewise, why get into a relationship with someone when you know that you aren't either physically or emotionally prepared (i.e. not finished school, in debt, filled with bitterness toward parents, etc.)
Resources (linked)


  1. Hey Cameron! (Found your blog:)

    I liked this article you wrote. The verses you used are very informative! It always amazed me why people assume sometimes that just because the word "courtship" isn't specifically mentioned in the Bible, the idea of courtship itself has no Biblical foundation. I suppose it all depends on what you mean by "courtship." Like you said, everybody has their own idea of what courtship should be for their family.

  2. What would you say is the best way to meet a guy?

    1. That's a tough question! Getting involved with a gospel-preaching church and fellowshipping with other families. But when the Lord wants you to meet someone, he'll orchestrate it!

  3. I know its a tough one , I have a Christian family which is a big plus.You know I was just askin,I don't want to get married but if the Lord will want me to then that's a different question:) I do have a few yrs before me to think thoroughly.....

  4. My wish is to be a sign language speaker and to learn braille.If that does not work I'll go to an orphanage.Which does take time...

    1. There is such a demand for sign language interpreters and speakers. The Deaf community would greatly benefit from a Christian young woman. I took ASL in high school and was discouraged by the political and religious leanings of the Deaf community. You will definitely need to prepare yourself in the areas of apologetics, theology, and evangelism. Good luck if this is the Lord's will in your life.

    2. Sorry but what does benefit mean? I've been thinking about it alot.I do hate politics.It time wastes,and I really never cared about it although my country did get into big trouble...Sorry but what does benefit mean?Thank you!

    3. What I mean is that as a whole the deaf community is pretty liberal (Democrats) and not as Christian as the rest of the population. There are certainly exceptions to this rule, but I think you could be salt and light to the deaf community.

  5. Hey! I have been meaning to take a minute to read this, I am so glad that I did!
    It is always great to know there are other like-minded ladies out there! :)

    Oh and I have to say- that was just about the best resource list possible!
    So glad that you follow the Pearl's articles and books!


    1. Yes the Pearls are really great! We're looking forward to going to our first Shindig this September.

  6. I think the only thing that matters is when searching for a spouse you put God first. In everything. I met my husband online and I've been blessed beyond my wildest dreams. Not everything fits in neat little boxes. I was 26 when I married and my husband 28. His father is dead and his mother is in a cult. My mom works full time to support my sister. There was no way to get "permission" or have chaperoned dates. I was raised in a home where I was adult enough to make my own decisions. I had my friends meet my husband before we were married and everyone loved him.

    The thing is I saw a deep and wondrous love and curiosity in my husband's heart for God.

    A lot of your blog is spot on. But I think you need to learn that being a christian isn't about having all your ducks in a row. It isn't about having a reason to do everything, or a purpose. It's not about making all the right decisions. I'm not trying to be critical here, I just noticed how you seem to feel everything you do, from what you wear and outward, has a bigger meaning.

    Sometimes clothes are just clothes.

    What really matters is trying to live every possible moment for God. Semantics are just semantics.

    That being said, I love your blog. I hope you don't think I'm being mean. I am simply attempting to communicate an idea I have, and sadly I do not know you enough to probably discern your own.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that God does not care about how modest or good or submissive anyone is.

    He just cares to know we have accepted him as savior. He'll take care of the rest.

  7. What does the "xyz conviction" mean?

  8. Another scripture: Amos 3:3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
    It the same concept of being "equally yolk" and being on "one accord". A person can jump into a relationship and if the other doesn't agree in terms of beliefs and goals, then, marriage is not in their future.


Thanks for commenting!